Are things actually going to change this time? A Ph.D. who studies race says they will.
Activist and author James Baldwin put America's glacial pace of racial progress in perspective back in the '80s when he said: "I was born here more than 60 years ago. I'm not going to live another 60 years. You always told me that it's going to take time."
"It's taken my father's time, my mother's time, my uncle's time, my brothers' and my sisters' time, my nieces and my nephew's time," he continued. "How much time do you want for your progress?"
Over the past few weeks, America's deeply ingrained social and institutional racism has come to the forefront of our collective consciousness once again.
This has resulted in hundreds of thousands of Americans of all colors taking it to the streets to profess that black lives matter in and that things need to change … now.
But will they? Will this time be any different?
New revolutionary era. Initially a large demonstration was planned, but this was changed since the infection cont… https://t.co/ygUiatOt6Q— EJ. 🌴 (@EJ. 🌴) 1591378890.0
James Jones, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Delaware, Newark, who has studied the psychology underlying prejudice and racism for over 50 years, thinks it's a real possibility.
Jones is the author of "Prejudice and Racism" and "The Psychology of Diversity: Beyond prejudice and racism." He was awarded the 2011 Lifetime Contribution to Psychology award from the American Psychological Association.
"In one sense, I'm hopeful this is finally an inflection point, a watershed like the 1960s were, that fundamentally changes how we approach things," Jones told Science. "We've done a lot of research about how to reduce people's adherence to stereotypes and help different groups recognize their commonalities."
Thank you to all the protestors who've stepped outside their homes during a global pandemic, come together w/ their… https://t.co/LXwFjmMSp2— Fergie (@Fergie) 1591381181.0
Jones believes that this time is different and people's perceptions of race have changed due to a "perfect storm" of events.
"I think this moment is different because of a constellation of recent events: Floyd may be victim zero for this wave of unrest, but Amy Cooper [a white woman who called the police on a black man who had asked her to leash her dog] played the "dangerous black male" card because she knew how it worked," he said.
"In the case of Breonna Taylor, police walked into a black woman's home and killed her. White men murdered Ahmaud Arbery, a black man out for jog. Not to mention the racial disparities made evident by COVID-19," he said.
"That all these things happened literally within days may have created a perfect storm. Now we see," Jones continued. "Now we get it. And as more and more people speak out, there is a growing sense of commonality and recognition that this must change."
Jones says that recent events have forced white people to have a change in racial consciousness.
"Many whites are having this new awareness that I think may spark a degree of guilt—not only about what happened in the past week, but what has been happening over 4 centuries," he said.
"That feeling is powerful and could have profound effects," he added. "It remains to be seen whether it can be sustained and whether the mighty forces of capitalism and politics can be brought into partnership for change."
Let's hope that Jones is right and the collective action we've seen this week can create a revolution in American consciousness. Just image if 233 years after The Constitution stated that "all men are created equal" we finally lived up to the promise.
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