Intro Unit: The Politics of Education - Enlightenment or Propaganda?

Real or Imaginary? The Psychological Effects of Racism on Blacks and Whites

Learning Objectives
After completing this lesson, students 
will be able to:
  • Assess the psychological effects of racism on blacks and whites.
  • Evaluate the methodology of social scientific experiments.
  • Analyze governmental policy and societal approaches for alleviating the psychological effects of racism.

Class Overview

Class Assignment
After observing enslaved African Americans on his tour of America in the 1830s, French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville, wrote the following in his treatise on the American experience, Democracy in America (1835):
What Tocqueville is referring to is the psychological effects of slavery and racism. Slavery was more than an economic system that forced African Americans to work for life, for free; it was also a system of psychology torture. Slavery was based on the notion that Africans were inferior to whites – subhuman even. This was implanted in the minds of both blacks and whites “from infancy,” to quote Tocqueville. Of course this was not true – Africans were never at any period of history inferior to whites. Therefore the white power structure had to “manufacture” this inferiority; they had to make the lie seem true. To do this they made everything associated with the color black negative, and everything associated with the color white positive. In every aspect of their lives, blacks were reminded of their "inferior" status. This constant bombardment of negative propaganda and degrading treatment undoubtedly had a negative effect on the psyche of black people. It made many black people hate themselves and wish that they were white, as Tocqueville observed. Yet others were never convinced that Blacks were inferior to whites. Furthermore, they never desired to become a part of white culture, they simply wanted to be free with equal opportunity and status under the law. 
As for white people – slavery and racism destroyed the humanity of those who embraced it, and made those who didn’t question the humanity of – not black people, but of their own race. For white people, racism created a false sense of superiority and racial entitlement based not on merit, but skin color. Yet, many white people did not endorse this philosophy of white supremacy – especially slavery, and many fought tirelessly against it. Many others were silenced by fear of violence and retribution from whites that did believe in these doctrines. 
This class examines the psychological effects of racism on blacks and whites using two pioneering social experiments: The famous “Doll Test” conducted by Kenneth & Mamie Clarke, and the pioneering “Brown Eye, Blue Eye Experiment” conducted by Jane Elliott. Do these psychological effects of racism still exist? In what ways has racism effected you psychologically?

"The Negro makes a thousand fruitless efforts to insinuate himself amongst men who repulse him; he conforms to the tastes of his oppressors, adopts their opinions, and hopes by imitating them to form a part of their community. Having been told from infancy that his race is naturally inferior to that of the whites, he assents to the proposition and is ashamed of his own nature. In each of his features he discovers a trace of slavery, and, if it were in his power, he would willingly rid himself of everything that makes him what he is."