Saba Battles-Williams and Kristin Wilkinson
Students enrolled in a social work course at Millersville University, entitled “Encounters in Human Diversity,” pushed the boundaries in a diversity experiment this past semester.
The class was divided into groups and assigned to different topics regarding social justice such as gender, age and ableism. These factors in society become the playground for discrimination and prejudice due to social stigmas and stereotypes.
One particular group was assigned to the topic of racism, and the group was instructed to implement a social justice plan of action to raise awareness around campus. Since racism is a sensitive topic, the group decided to take matters slow and gather people’s opinions rather than just merely voicing facts about the negative effects of racism.
The group chose to model a CNN study that was conducted with African American and Caucasian 6- year-old children and 13-year-old adolescents.
The CNN study used two pictures to demonstrate the racial divide across the United States. Children and adolescents were asked “What’s happening in this picture?” The results of this study concluded that African American children were more optimistic than Caucasian children, stating that 38 percent of African American children had a negative interpretation of the pictures, whereas 70 percent of Caucasian children felt as though something negative was happening.
Results state that by adolescence the optimism fades and African American adolescents become just as pessimistic as Caucasian adolescents.
The students at Millersville University pushed one step further and surveyed college students. The purpose of the small study was to determine whether or not racism is prevalent on the Millersville campus and if students had skewed views of other races. When shown the exact same pictures, students were asked “What comes to mind when you see this picture?”
These results stated that approximately 32 percent of the people had different answers for each picture; one picture they perceived bullying and the other they did not. Of that 32 percent, an estimated 62 percent of those people viewed their race as being the inflictor of bullying.