Unconscious Prejudice: Freud Lives
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 3, 2015
We treat people differently based on reasons we would adamantly deny. We live lives of contradiction and confusion. The one slight benefit to all of these racially based shootings is that we can now acknowledge that, although we do not like to admit it, first impressions cause us to make conscious and unconscious assumptions about people, which cause us to act, at times, in unkind, and hostile ways. The story in this report of a white mother with her African American son who is slowly crawling out of anesthesia, where she sees her son as scared, and the staff see him as threatening. This disparity, clearly racially driven, highlights the notion that, under stress we work off assumptions which may have historical value, but in the current context is inappropriate. The staff perceived this young man’s anxiety as potentially violent, because in their minds, agitation could result in aggression, whereas if he were female, and/or white, they may have been inclined to try to soothe, as opposed to ignoring and avoiding. The bad news is not about unconscious assumptions, since we are all “guilty” of that, but the bad news is that we, as a society, deny that we behave that way. It is only with the advent of hand-held video cameras can we begin to penetrate this denial, and say, hey, the person in authority reacted out of proportion to the situation at hand. Let’s be honest that we have prejudice, which is rooted deeply within us. Then, we can attack the problem. Otherwise, we repeat. Geez. It sounds a lot like psychotherapy. Freud lives. Here is our “evidence”.