Attitudes, Racism and Culture
Attitudes are developed from the culture in which we live. In the movie “Remember the Titans” the students initially had negative attitudes towards students of the opposite race. Their parents, who might have had negative attitudes from past culture and experiences, influenced their attitudes. Derogatory expressions and their parents’ views played in role in the formation of their own attitudes. The culture of the society in America at the time had also affected how the students had formed their attitudes.
African-Americans had been made ‘equal’ yet material evidence of this in society was not evident, prejudices had not yet died out of society. For races to integrate was not yet socially and culturally acceptable and the students were either brought up in the society and culture to believe and have attitudes that the races were not equal or they were afraid to single-handedly break the barriers society had built. Social values are what people in and as a community think. They are the standards in social life which are considered to be important.
In “Remember the Titans” each race or community had their own social values. The white Caucasian community held appearances, religion (presumably Christianity), education, and money, and relationships, among other things, as social values. The African-American community, coming from a past of limited freedom, valued freedom, friendship amongst themselves or fraternity, music and dance and their past as important standards in their social life. It is important to note that both racial groups had a common social value, football, which initially neither realised they shared.
It is also important to note that neither of the groups valued inter-racial friendships or relationships which they come to value at the end. Stereotypes are fixed impressions and exaggerated ideas about particular social groups and are usually based on physical appearances. Stereotypes are a type of social categorisation and can be seen as the process of referring to a group which is believed to be associated with a person and describing the person with reference to the group. Stereotypes are dangerous as they are simplified ideas which over generalize and do not include all or most individuals.
Stereotypes are used to strengthen an individuals own identity. In “Remember the Titans”, the white Caucasian boy, Gary Butier, insults an African-American by suggesting that he might not have a father or if he did his father might not have a job. He said this because of the stereotype at the time that African-American men did not have jobs or did not stick with their families. This stereotype or generalization originated from the 1920s, after the war, when African-Americans were discriminated against and could not find jobs easily and would often have to leave their families.
Another example of a stereotype from the movie is that Caucasians are racist towards African-Americans. This is dangerous as it does not include individuals who are not racist towards African-Americans such as the ‘fat kid’ who does not discriminate against the African-Americans. Initially this is a shock to the African-Americans because of the stereotype and the prejudice formed because of it. Stereotypes are the basis of prejudice and discrimination. Prejudice is bias, the negative opinions, beliefs, feelings and judgments held about individuals because of their group categorization.
In the movie, Gary Butier’s girlfriend might have the fixed impression (stereotype) that African-Americans are ‘dirty’. This stereotype could have been passed down through the attitudes of previous generations because in the past Africans were seen as ‘not human’ and were treated as slaves. These negative views lead to certain ways of acting towards individuals or groups and result in discrimination. Discrimination is the treatment or making a distinction in favour of or against a person, based on the group to which that person belongs.
From the example above, Gary Butier’s girlfriend discriminated against Gary’s African-American friend by refusing to shake his hand. Because of stereotypes against African-Americans, she had negative feelings (prejudice) towards him which lead her to discrimination against him. Racial prejudice is a form of prejudice that is based on racial categorization (membership to a racial group). Racism is the integration of racial prejudice into everyday social activities. The purpose of racism is to discriminate against certain racial groups and to enhance the opposite race.
As seen in “Remember the Titans” the Caucasian students initially objected to playing football with the African-American students. Their negative views led them to act in this negative way (discrimination) towards the African-American students. The reasons for this racism could be to discriminate against the African-American students but also to make themselves feel better about how they play football. Attitudes and prejudice are also linked. If an individual has a negative attitude towards a group, the affect (feelings) she has towards that group will be negative.
Likewise, her behaviour (actions) and cognition (thoughts) are likely to be negative. She will therefore have prejudice, negative thoughts, feelings and judgments towards the particular group. This results in negative behaviours, discrimination. Social influence is a factor that contributes to the development of prejudice. Individuals want to identify themselves as part of a group (self categorisation). They therefore conform to the group standards to feel part of and accepted by the group. In “Remember the Titans” Gary Butier’s girlfriend held prejudice for his African-American friends.
She was unwilling to change her attitudes as they were the “social norms” of her social group. Breaking the “social norm” could have lead to her being excluded from the group. Conflict or competition between two groups often leads to prejudice. Groups form negative attitudes and use derogatory terms for the opposing group to feel better about themselves. Individuals in the opposing group are therefore prejudged to be like their social group and are not seen as individuals. In the movie, the African-American footballers and the Caucasian footballers competed for a place in the team.
Intergroup conflict is caused which contributes to the development of prejudice. Social identity also contributes to the development of prejudice. Individuals identify others in terms of their group membership (social categorisation). People’s characteristics are described with reference to the group they are associated with. For example, Gary was prejudged to be associated to be racist because the group he associated with was seen to be racist. He in fact had changed his attitudes and went against the social norms of the group. Intergroup contact, superordinate goals and cognitive-interventions are all factors which may reduce prejudice.
Intergroup contact involves co-operative interdependence (groups depending on each others co-operation) and promotes equality. In the movie the two groups go on preseason boot camp together and depend on each other for the camp to be a success. They are also encouraged to talk to the opposite race and find out three things about a person from the opposite race. The footballers return with a higher sense of equality between the races. Superordinate goals are common goals between two groups and can only be achieved if both groups work together.