Racial Beliefs Can Result From Cultural Dilemmas

Racial Beliefs Should Not Be Taken As Facts That Can Explain Discrimination

Racial Beliefs Can Result From Cultural Dilemmas Like-Getting Paid For Something You Know Is Wrong


[Footnote. A literature survey has produced a paucity of literature concerning sociological ambivalence and the proposed interdependent linkage concerning ambivalence, self-awareness and prejudice. The researcher has, therefore, chosen to combine the literature on ambivalence, self-awareness, and prejudice with the theoretical foundation used to relate the interdependent relationships between ambivalence, self-awareness and prejudice. The researcher, with this goal in mind, describes: 1) the prejudice-ambivalence connection, 2) the social ramifications of the prejudice-ambivalence connection, 3) the reflexive nature of self-awareness, 4) the reflexive nature of self-awareness as a major component of modernity, and, 5) the resolution of self-reflexivity and ambivalence in what the researcher calls “the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self,” that is, an understanding of how the “inner life of a person”, argumentative consistency, and normative guidelines can be incorporated into a shared discourse in the postmodern era.]

The Prejudice–Ambivalence Connection

In the article entitled, “Prejudice or Ambivalence? Attitudes toward Persons with Disabilities,” Soder (1990) suggests that ambivalence, rather than prejudice, may be taken seriously as a point of departure for exploring the negative affect of attitudes towards persons with physical disabilities. Soder (1990: 227) states:

“Attitudes toward persons with disabilities are often assumed to be negative and prejudiced… The assumption of attitudes as prejudiced is questioned in this article … Instead an interpretation in terms of ambivalence is suggested, where reactions toward persons with disabilities are seen as a result of conflicting values.”

What Soder has in mind is an ambivalence-centered theoretical perspective, which will help us to better understand attitudes toward persons with physical disabilities. This theory will incorporate conflicting values. These conflicting values, Soder informs us, are based on the results of sociometric studies (MacMillan & Morrison, 1984; Altman, 1981; Lapp, 1957), where respondents were seen to show a real preference for real persons with disabilities, and, survey research studies where disabilities were associated with devalued characteristics (Whiteman-Lukoff, 1965). These conflicting values are identified as, on the one hand, benevolent sympathy toward persons with disabilities, and on the other hand, negative valuations of the disability. According to Soder, these conflicting values cannot be understood as indicators of prejudices, and require, if they are to be reconciled, a new theoretical understanding.

Soder, after citing researchers who have, at least in some respect, attempted to use ambivalence as a modeling concept for interpreting a person’s attitudes towards persons with physical disabilities (Lewis, 1973; Farber, 1964; Livneh, 1980), proposes an explanation for why this aspect of inquiry has remained unexplored. Soder (1990: 237) states:

“The traditional methods leave little room for exploring this ambivalence. They are usually designed in order to fulfill the wishes of the researcher to find a one-dimensional explanatory variable for predicting behavior… The bulk of such theories seem to be focused on finding rational ways people use to reach consistency among different conflicting entities (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975). No matter how sophisticated those rational mechanisms are supposed to be, they leave little room for the idea of people being exposed to and living with constant ambivalence.”

Following a thorough critique of the restrictive nature of attitude research, Soder offers the example of Myrdal’s study (1964), which links the struggles of the American Negro to the values and social structure of society, to make clear how situational influences and conflicting values can be understood in an encompassing theory of ambivalence. Myrdal, instead of reducing racial problems to prejudice and a set of false beliefs, suggests that the source of these problems, at least in part, can be traced to the moral dilemma that, on the one hand, is posed by the American Creed (as it is expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution) and, on the other hand, to the specific economic and political interests which followed from America’s investment in the slave trade. Racial beliefs then, according to Soder (1990: 238), “should not be taken as facts that can explain discrimination. Instead, they should be seen as expressions of the real dilemma that lays at the root of the problem and which is just as much a cultural dilemma as an individual one.”

Soder, in conclusion, offers no conceptual linkage between attitudes towards persons with disabilities and prevailing ideologies and social structures in society. But, he does offer ambivalence “as a sensitizing concept that can guide such research” and, hopefully, at some future date, according to Soder, the conflicting values that coincide with people’s responses to persons with physical disabilities will be analyzed in terms of ideological and structural moral dilemmas.

Attitudes Toward Marginal Groups Tend To Be Conflicted, Uncertain, And As A Result Given To Exaggerated Appraisals

An Overt Expression Of Ambivalence In A Person’s Social Relationship With Others May Cause Friction Within Social Relationships

Another critique of the ambivalence–prejudice connection is found in Katz’s social psychological theory of ambivalence-induced behavioral amplification. According to Katz (1981: x):

“…attitudes toward marginal groups are not simply prejudiced, neutral, or accepting, but tend rather to be deeply conflicted and uncertain, a complex mixture of sympathetic and aversive elements. It is further proposed that as a consequence of the ambivalence, behavior toward group members can be erratic and extreme–either in a positive or negative direction depending on how situational factors affect the attitudinal equation.”

Some of Katz’s research tends to support Myrdal’s thesis (1944) that the key to understanding race relations in America will be found in a theoretical understanding that explains why Whites maintain ambivalent attitudes toward Blacks. In two relevant studies (Katz et al., 1986; Katz and Hass, 1988) it is demonstrated, for example, that “Whites are ambivalent because some of their values compel them to sympathize with Blacks (e.g., egalitarianism), whereas other values imply Blacks have failed to use their opportunities (e.g., Protestant work ethic)” (Leippe and Eisenstadt, 1994: 397).

Two more studies suggest ambivalence-induced negative affects, at least indirectly, may produce prejudiced attitudes (Hass, Katz, Rizzo, Bailey, Eisenstadt, 1991; Hass, Katz, Rizzo, Bailey, Moore, 1992). In the former study ambivalent attitudes were found to produce extreme effects in cross-racial attitude appraisals. Black participants tended to be appraised at the extreme ends of the good/bad scale by White participants in the completion of a task-related project. This result was in opposition to White participants appraising White participants for the completion of the same task. This study lends credence to the claim that attitudes toward marginal groups tend to be conflicted, uncertain, and as a result given to exaggerated appraisals.

In the latter study (Hass, Katz, Rizzo, Bailey, Moore, 1992), support was generated for the claim that ambivalence evokes a negative affect in people who are made aware of their ambivalent attitudes towards Blacks. We are aware, at least since Goffman’s work with stigmatized individuals (1963), that an overt expression of ambivalence in a person’s social relationships with others and in one’s self-presentation may cause friction within social relationships. “Smooth social encounters,” according to Katz, “are governed by presentations of self that are consistent with the expectations and assumptions of the participants. A profuse display of ambivalent emotion, attitudes, or behaviors would certainly disrupt the ‘working consensus’ of the participants and would create conflicts in their ‘definition of the situation’” (Katz, 1981: x). As this study shows, the more a white person is made aware of their ambivalent attitude toward Blacks, the more that person will experience a negative affect, for example, states of agitated anxiety which may “take the form of negative behavior toward members of the out-group” (Hass, et al., 1992: 796).


2 Responses to “Racial Beliefs Can Result From Cultural Dilemmas”

  1. Savannah Says:

    Awesome blog!

    I thought about starting my own blog too but I’m just too lazy so, I guess Ill just have to keep checking yours out.

    • bwinwnbwi Says:

      Thanks, its always nice to discover you’re not alone in here or out there. Go ahead and start a blog and then you will be able to say thanks also. Take care.

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