Option A: Thoughts on Race, Ethnicity and Culture
This page contains an assortment of springboards for you to dive into a discussion of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination. This is an activity in self-reflection. Consider your own personal history. Respond to at least 5 (or more) of the following questions in a 2-3 page paper:
1. Is it possible to be free of prejudice? Have you ever met anyone who was?
2. Are you prejudiced? If so, what are some recent instances in which you behaved in a prejudiced way? If not, how do you know that you’re not prejudiced?
3. If you’ve behaved in a prejudiced way, what caused the prejudice, and what might reduce it? How did other people respond to your behavior?
4. If a close friend or family member were to make a prejudiced comment, would you protest? Why or why not? What about a stranger or acquaintance — would you respond in that situation?
5. If you were to make a prejudiced comment at a party or among a group of friends, would your friends say something?
6. Does the categorization of people always result in prejudice? What about categorizing people in a positive way — does that result in prejudice?
7. Are stereotypes ever a good thing? Have you ever tried to get people to stereotype you, either positively or negatively?
8. Does the very categorization of people — for example, as female, a college student, African-American, or Texan — necessarily rob them of individuality?
9. At a psychological level, what are the common denominators that link all forms of prejudice?
10. In generisting or increasing?
11. Describe the earliest memory you have of an experience with a person or people of a racial, ethnic, or cultural group different from your own..
12. Who or what has had the most influence in the formation of your attitudes and opinions about people of different racial, ethnic, and/or cultural groups? In what way?
13. What influences in your experience have led to the development of positive feelings about your own heritage and background?
14. What influences in your experience have led to the development of negative feelings, if any, about your own heritage or background?
15. What changes, if any, would you like to make in your own attitudes or experiences in relation to people of other racial, ethnic, or cultural groups?
16. Describe an experience in your own life when you feel you were discriminated against for any reason.
17. How do you feel you should deal with (or not deal with) issues of racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity in American society?
18. Which forms of prejudice are most socially acceptable, and which are least acceptable? Why are some forms more acceptable than others?
19. When, if ever, is it best to remain colorblind to race and ethnicity? When, if ever, is it best to celebrate multicultural differences? Do the goals of colorblindenss and multiculturalism conflict with each other?
20. What do you think the most difficult aspect is of being a racial, ethnic, or religious minority member? What is the most difficult aspect of being a majority group member?
21. Who or what has had the most influence in the formation of your attitudes and opinions about people of different racial, ethnic, and/or cultural groups? In what way?
Discussion topics taken from the following web site: http://www.understandingprejudice.org/
Paul Pedersen. 110 experiences for multicultural learning (pp. 240–241). Copyright 2004. Reprinted by permission of the American Psychological Association.
Option B: Random Act of Kindness
In early 1993, Professor Chuck Wall of Bakersfield College was listening to the radio when the announcer said, “We have another random act of senseless violence to report (Huggins, 2010, para. 4). According to Professor Wall, when he heard that phrase, he immediately took out the word “violence” and replaced it with the word “kindness” (as cited in Huggins, 2010, para.6). In class that afternoon, he asked his students to write down the week’s assignment: “Today I will commit one random act of senseless kindness” (as cited in Huggins, 2010, para. 7).
Professor Wall shares that his students were perplexed by this assignment and asked him to explain the meaning of kindness. Instead he suggested they figure it out for themselves. Here are some of the student’s stories: Shane Gautreaux, 20, had distributed blankets he’d bought from the Salvation Army to a group of homeless people who lived under Bakersfield’s Beale Street overpass. Lisa Holiman, 28, had rescued a ragged stray collie, bathed and fed it, then put up posters trying to find the dog’s owners. One day later, the collie was reclaimed. Jo Marshall, 55 and recently divorced after 37 years of marriage, set aside her anger at her then-out-of-work former husband and counseled him on how to obtain an extension on his unemployment benefits. And Jessica Fredericksen, 41, committed perhaps the ultimate act of generosity: Spying a harried motorist circling the student parking lot, she pulled out of the space she had just taken and waved him in. (as cited in Huggins, 2010, para. 11)
From that one class assignment, an international movement was spawned. Sally Radmacher (1997) reports that her students both enjoy and learn much from performing a random act of kindness. She suggested the following activity:
Perform a random act of kindness for someone. After performing your act of kindness, write a 2-3 page paper describing the act in detail, the recipient’s reaction, and your own reaction. Incorporate concepts from the text relating to pro-social action (See pages 712-714). Additionally, consider why some recipients might have a negative reaction to receiving help. Post your paper in as an attachment in MS Word.
Huggins, J. S. (2010). Random acts of kindness. Retrieved from http://www.jamesshuggins.com/h/mot1/random_acts_of_kindness.htm
Radmacher, S. (1997, January 19). Social psychology projects. Teaching in the psychological sciences (TIPS Online Discussion Group).
Option C: Violating Norms
When we violate the unwritten rules for appropriate social behavior, we quickly learn the surprising power of even relatively minor and usually invisible social norms. The purpose of this assignment is to make you conscious of how these subtle norms shape our everyday behavior and the consequences of violating norms, and to give you an idea of how psychological research on norm violations is conducted.
Choose any 2 of the following behaviors: Cut into the middle of a line by yourself; stay in line for at least 2 minutes Ask someone you don’t know for his/her seat in a public place (e.g., at the cafeteria, on the bus, in a movie theater, in the library, etc.); stay in the seat for at least 2 minutes. Surprise 3 of your same-sex friends with a kiss on the cheek. Applaud at the end of a class after the professor is done lecturing Before one of your classes begins, go around the classroom and shake hands with at least 8 people; say “good morning (afternoon)” to them or use other words to welcome them to class today. You could also do something similar on an elevator. Have an animated conversation with yourself in public Yell or whisper when you talk At your parents’ home ask for permission to do everything (get a drink, use the bathroom, watch TV, etc.) Violate someone’s personal space. For example, stand right next to someone in the elevator when you are the only two people in it. Wear your clothes backwards to work, class, or another public place like the mall or grocery store Get on an elevator and stand facing the back; or get on an elevator and introduce yourself to people as they get on and tell them goodbye when they get off. Eat with your hands in a restaurant, cafeteria, food court, etc. (Typical finger foods- fries, cookies, pizza, burgers, etc. don’t count). Sing out loud in a public place; or sing all responses to a conversation with a friend or sing your order in a fast food restaurant. Stand on a chair in a restaurant and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Eat of other people’s plates Walk around the mall with an open umbrella. Position yourself six inches from an acquaintance’s nose during a conversation Supply your own ideas for violating norms- must be approved by professor first.
Before, during, and after your 2 different norm violations, mentally observe: your own reactions (thoughts, feelings, physical responses, behavior); the reactions of the people around you (your friends may help you observe others’ reactions — and your friends might have reactions of their own that are interesting!)
After violating the social norms, you may tell the people around you WHY you were acting this way.
In a 2-3 page paper, do each of the following:
1. Describe what 2 social norms you violated and how you went about doing so; clearly identify what factors made it particularly easy or difficult for you to violate the norms.
2. Describe your own and others’ reactions before, during, and after each violation. Describe how the fundamental attribution error played a role in your situations.
3. What did the experience of violating norms teach you about the power of the situation? What did it teach you about the experiences of people who don’t “fit in” because they are new to our culture or are handicapped in some way?
4. If you were required to violate social norms on a daily basis, how do you think that would change your reactions to violations as a violator or as an observer or violations?
-This assignment adapted from Dr. Sherri Lantinga, Dordt College.
*Regardless of which option you choose, the paper should be double spaced, include page numbering and have an APA formatted title page, in-text citations and reference page. You do not need an abstract.
For help with APA formatting for title page, citations, and reference page see the following:
APA Sample Paper