Uncovering the Origins of Racial Stereotyping: A talk by Erika Hall at TEDxColumbiaUniversity – Video

Uncovering the Origins of Racial Stereotyping: A talk by Erika Hall at TEDxColumbiaUniversity – Video

Erika Hall, in her talk titled “The history behind racial stereotyping,” delves into the significance of names and labels and how they can shape one’s trajectory in life. Drawing insights from both personal experiences and professional research, she discusses how racial labels can influence perceptions and stereotypes.

Hall shares her journey of naming her children, explaining how she conducted a research study to find the best name for her eldest daughter that would offer her the most success in life. She highlights the impact of racial labels by conducting studies that reveal how white participants perceived African-American candidates differently than black candidates, leading to biases in managerial positions and salary expectations.

Exploring the historical context behind racial labels, Hall explains the origins of the terms “African-American” and “black,” and how they became imbued with different ideological and cultural undertones. She also delves into the concept of semantic prosody, where words absorb the tone of the words that frequently surround them, thus influencing their connotations.

In summary, Erika Hall’s talk sheds light on the complexities of racial labels and their far-reaching implications on perceptions, stereotypes, and societal attitudes.

Watch the video by TEDxTalks

Author Video Description

African American or Black, Latinx or Hispanic — How do you know which labels to use to describe yourself and others? Business Professor Erika Hall shares research on the hidden stereotypes embedded in racial labels. By bringing these associations to light, she suggests ways to honor someone’s cultural identity while mitigating potential bias. Learn effective strategies to navigate uncomfortable situations by feeling confident about which labels to choose.

Erika V. Hall is an Associate Professor of Organization and Management at the Goizueta Business School at Emory University. As a trained social psychologist, her research explores the powerful impact of stereotypes and the hidden content within them. Hall earned a PhD in Management & Organizations from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Professor Hall’s work has appeared in academic journals such as Academy of Management Review, Journal of Applied Psychology, Psychological Science, and American Psychologist, and media outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and NPR. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

Shakespeare famously pinned the quote what’s in a name he was talking through his character Juliet as she pleaded with her lover Romeo that what we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet in her mind names and labels made no difference because it was the content of

One’s character that was weighted the most heavily and I’ve learned through both personal and professional research that nothing is farther from the truth my obsession with names first stemmed from my eldest daughter’s birth I wanted to give her the best chance at navigating in at times by a society and

I knew that a name could be consequential for a child’s trajectory in life because of common research methodology used in my field in audit studies researchers create fictitious resumés that are identical except for they affix different names to the tops of each one after which they send these resumés

Out to real jobs and companies and they assess the percentage of call backs received depending on which name applied for the position so when it came time to name my eldest daughter my quirky Professor brain kicked in and I decided I needed a research study to find her the the best name that

Would offer her the most success in life seriously I had a thousand survey takers from Across the Nation assess each of my name choices on just how competent likable and hirable they perceived a person with that name to be with little sentimentality the scientists in me chose the name that

Rated highest across all measures of my study true story now if you’re a parent of more than one kid you may understand why by the time it got to the second kid he didn’t receive the same rigorous investigation there was no research sample or empirical investigation from

My son instead we named him Kingston which was reminiscent of his ancestral path so instead of thinking with the logical analytical left side of my brain we wanted something more meaningful and symbolic both my husband and I have Caribbean Roots so naming him Kingston tied him to

A history that we never wanted him to forget my obsession with names and labels progressed even further when we started to understand the power and complexity of racial labels so in one-on-one conversations with white counterparts at networking events I would refer to myself as black and in

Response they would refer to me as African-American it was as if they were placing black for African-Americans so not to offend me now there are technical differences between the two labels where black is more of a global term and African-American refers solely to residents of the United States but

Colloquially within this country we treat the two interchangeably and I certainly wasn’t offended by the use of either one but I did find my counterpart’s behavior to be strange after multiple interactions like this I started to wonder whether there was a stigma inherent in the Black Label

That I was missing so the researcher and me set out to test whether white people perceived black people differently than African-Americans in a series of studies that I collected with Sarah Townson Katherine Phillips and James Carter we created fictitious application forms that were identical except for in one we

Ident identified the candidate as black and in the other we identified the candidate as African-American the results shocked me the white participants who evaluated the African-American candidate were twice as likely to believe that that candidate belonged in a managerial position rather than the same exact candidate but who was described as black the

African-American label LED participants to believe there was a completely new candidate one who was more competent educated and worthy of a higher salary this is like $88,000 that we’re talking about for this label it made me think back to my cocktail party participants and wonder whether the Black Label conjured up all

These negative stereotypes and they were reticent to apply those stereotypes to me I decided to dig even deeper to investigate how racial labels even become imbued with stere stereotypical content and to do so I had to go back in time let’s take the racial label negro most Americans will consider it negative

Or at least old-fashioned in fact it was removed from the Census after 2010 because of complaints that it was negative outdated and reminiscent of the Jim Crow era I realize that this racial label evoked the historical period it gained prominence with in negro was frequently used during a

Time that furthered Jim Crow ideology therefore it’s not terribly surprising that it soaked up some of this ideology and those undertones continue on with the word even today now the process of a word absorbing the tone of the words that frequently surround it is called semantic

Pro and a word gains semantic Pro when it absorbs the the positive or negative tone of the words that frequently prede or follow it in natural language I’m going to give you an example okay the drug produced increased blood flow in the extremities or the blood caused increased blood flow in the

Extremities if I’m trying to assess the side effect as being positive or negative which one sounds more negative raise your hand if you think it’s the first one the second one exactly the second one sounds more negative even though produced and cause are technically synonyms with the same definition in the

Dictionary and this is because cause is typically followed by more um negative terms like death problems and damage whereas produce is typically followed by more neutral terms in natural language therefore these terms have absorbed the meaning of the words that frequently surround them and that persists even

When those other following words are no longer present in the same manner negro semantically soaked up all of the ideology of Jim Crow that surrounded it and if we want to start to understand the undertones of the African-American and black labels then we can look into their historical context the term African-American became

Prominent after a 1988 speech where Reverend Jesse Jackson declared that Americans of African descent now wanted to be called African-American Jesse Jackson exemplified civil rights ideals after getting his start working under Martin Luther King Jr Civil Rights ideology uh professed voting and political participation as a means for racial minorities to achieve Racial

Equality conversely the Black Label Rose to prominence in the Black Power movement where stokeley carmichel who later identified as quam Tor championed its use black power ideology suggested that white supremacy had economically disadvantaged black people leaving them destitute racially victimized and subject to poor socioeconomic condition

Now let’s go back to this idea of semantic procity because my colleagues and I collected and analyzed over 40 years worth of op-eds in major US newspapers and found that paragraph segments con turnning containing the term black were more frequently surrounded by language reminiscent of the Black Power movement whereas those

Containing the term African-American were more frequently surrounded by language reminiscent of the Civil Rights movement now these findings aren’t just a historical curiosity they actually have real consequences in one of our studies we had white Americans evaluate nonprofits committed to Racial equality except for we varied the racial label in the

Nonprofits name so one of the nonprofits was named the African-American Alliance and the other was named the black Alliance our participants believed that the black Alliance iance was significantly more likely than the African-American Alliance to have a goal of eradicating racial Injustice to consider Malcolm X their Idol and to

Have an aim to defund the police whereas those believe that the African American Alliance was more likely to Champion civil rights and inequality and equality and consider the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr and also have a aim to end voter suppression the these and coded meetings guided how much money white participants

Decided to financially donate to these nonprofits and which ones they decided to donate to for example white Americans who wanted to eradicate racial bias were 99% more likely to donate to the black Alliance rather than the African-American Alliance whereas those who really wanted to Champion civil rights and inequality in equality were

50% less likely to donate to the black organization than the African-American one these simple choices of labels created very different organizations in the minds of my participants one’s tied to the historical origins of these labels I also want to draw your attention to how complex these different

Consequences are on the one hand I’m telling you that black is related to a candidate’s incompetence and then on the other hand I’m saying that it spawns more financial support for a nonprofit gear to Racial equality and I can imagine how these different Myriad of consequences might leave you even more

Confused about which label to choose so here are three things we can do to make more informed choices about the labels we use to Divine ourselves and others first to understand the symbolic associations of label we can situate the label in history an easy and fascinating

Way to do this is to use Google’s Ingram viewer which charts the use of the label over time take the label Latin x a gender neutral term used to describe a descendant of Latin America when was this label used most frequently well we see the rise of Latin X after

2010 what do we know about that time well this this time period corresponds with a few pivotal dates that brought gender and sex identity issues to light for example the term latinx became more prominent on Twitter during the tragic shooting at paulse night club a gay bar frequented by the Latin American

Community and what does this tell us about current customs and Norms well on the one hand latinx is still a relatively rare word in comparison to Hispanic Latin or Latina I think this may speak to the marginalization of non-binary people but on the other hand

The X and Latin X reads well in English but it flows so awkwardly in Spanish latinis one of the predominant languages of the people that it professes to label the second thing we can do is disaggregate the label when we categorize people into a group we believe that they’re categorized for a reason

And that the people within the group share more in common with each other than they do with people outside the group so labels can be broad think bipo aapi and Latinos or they can be more specific think Nick uh black Pacific Islander in Nicaraguan often the more specific label

Is more meaningful but that’s dependent on the context of its use so if I wanted to talk about the disadvantages is uh faced by non-whites I could use the term bipac but often what we find is that the sub groups do not face the same consequences as the broader group for

Example even though uh the aapi label is uh touted as the model minority because of their High median income we find that the median income for Pacific Islanders is even less than the US national average so in this case using broader group labels aapi rather than P specific

Group labels Pacific Islander May blind us to the struggle of the specific group third and finally allow people to choose their preferred label this with the caveat that you’d be repeating a racial label not a racial slur and this method takes the anxiety out of knowing which label to choose

Think back to my cocktail parties where I describe myself as black it also allows the self labor labeler to reduce the stigma associated with their label so research by my wonderful doctoral advisor Adam galinsky suggests that when people self-label with a derogatory label they’re able to attenuate the

Stigma in that label and they’re also rated as more powerful by others people often ask me if they should stop using the Black Label due to some of its implicit stereotypes and my answer to that is a resounding no the Black Label transports me to a point in time where the words that

Surrounded that label signified dignity unity and Beauty I’m an 80s baby but it teleports me to the 60s and 70s with by black signs and black is beautiful signs back to the music of Marvin Gay and Tammy Terell music that nourishes my soul back to a time where there were

Immense struggles yes but there was an incredible amount of unity tenacity and power now you’ll recall that when naming my own children I wanted to give my daughter a name that would Shield her from bias but that also t tide my son to a cultural path that would nourish his

Life and guide him in the future this tension is no different for racial labels I may have to contend with a world that will box me in when I label myself black but that label also makes me nostalgic for a cultural past that only my elders experienced so I’m going to leave you

With a simple solution the way semantic it works the Black Label is only going to change when how we use it changes when black is used to describe Professor President and Vice President our lexicon will adapt and soak up the positivity of those surrounding words if you ask me I am black without

Question and you don’t have to replace black for African-American in any of our cocktail party interactions but until we truly embrace the Black Label as a symbol of Education intelligence and Poise mark my words that a rose Will Never Smell a week

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