White people have difficulty recognizing our emotions, but we can recognize white people’s emotions.

From the updated post White people are different from people:

In fact, group status may moderate cross-cultural emotion recognition accuracy (see Elfenbein & Ambady, 2002a; and Wolfgang & Cohen, 1988, for a discussion). For example, members of minority cultural groups may recognize emotion expressions displayed by individuals of the majority cultural group more efficiently than members of the majority can in return recognize expressions of the minority group (Elfenbein & Ambady, 2002a). Furthermore, in some cases, an out-group advantage occurs such that members of minority groups recognize the majority’s emotion expressions better than they recognize their own (Elfenbein & Ambady, 2002a). For instance, Asian Canadians have been shown to be more accurate when judging intense emotions displayed by Caucasian compared to Asian expressers (Bourgeois, Herrera, & Hess, 2005).


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Stuff POC do: restrain ourselves

When I checked Stuff White People Do and saw a post originally titled, “Stuff White People Do: Laugh at Asian English”, I felt racism fatigue, and responded with a half-hearted and uninspired, “I am offended at your post,” followed with a description. I fully expected to be accused of looking for racism again by some commenter in a comment that closely followed mine, which has become almost a tradition at Stuff White People Do. (Sometimes this commenter is Macon D himself.)

Unsurprisingly, I was accused of “looking for something to pounce on Macon for” by a commenter named “haley” half an hour later. Surprisingly, however, the normally-defensive Macon D took my complaint seriously and tried to think of alternative ways of phrasing the title. In the end, Macon D actually took my suggestion seriously and changed the post’s title to “Stuff White People Do: Laugh at “Engrish”.”*

I’m not entirely sure what happened, but perhaps my uncharacteristic comment, which left me vulnerable to the accusation of oversensitivity, didn’t trigger a defensive reaction on the part of Macon D.

Normally, I almost never criticize racism with “I am offended” or “I take offense”, because when racism is framed as “something that offends people”, then accusations of racism are portrayed as “political correctness” catering to the hypersensitivities of minorities who supposedly always force the majority to accommodate them. Even when I almost never use the terms “offense”, “offended”, or “offensive”, people have told me that I was oversensitive about racism, that I need to grow up, that I cannot always break down and cry every time someone is not sensitive to my feelings.

The people who say these things appear to think that racism occurs rarely, and that when a non-white person complains about allegedly “trivial” instances of racism, it means that she is like a young child who hasn’t yet learned that not everyone in the world is obligated to be nice to her. In reality, however, I have experienced racial microaggressions since childhood, and I am well aware that the world is not a safe space for people of colour with respect to race. I point out racism not because I’m noticing it for the first time, but because I want to bring it to the attention of others who have grown up shielded from the daily realities that people of colour have to endure. I point out racism because I want to point out injustice, not because I am some selfish oversensitive child who wants the world to revolve around me and my feelings.

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White people assume that non-Western cultures are less civilized.

White people were aware of non-white societies for centuries, and needed to a way to organize this knowledge in relation to themselves. One way white people have historically organized this knowledge was to assume that non-Western societies were inferior and Western societies were superior, and that non-white people were “savages” and white people were “civilized”. White people assumed that societies “progressed” from “savage” to “civilized”, from heathen to Christian, from non-Western to Western. White people believed that African cultures and Native American cultures were “primitive” and that given enough time, these cultures would “advance” to look very much like white, Western societies.

Most white people today still hold the same views implicitly, in that even most white liberals consider non-Western cultures “ancient” and “traditional”. The assumption behind this way of thinking is that non-Western cultures are stuck in the past, and that Western societies live in the present. When white people organize Western and non-Western cultures on a timeline by placing non-Western cultures in the past and Western society in the present, they are assuming that societies “progress” unilinearly from non-Western to Western. That is, to view non-Western cultures as “ancient” and “traditional” is to view Western society as the most culturally advanced and the most evolved. Most white people think that to “Westernize” is same as to “modernize” and improve.

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