LaPiere Study (Brooks)
“It’s not that prejudice or discrimination don’t exist; they do, and can’t be imagined away. But the key to overcoming prejudice and discrimination is not to double down on what makes people different.”
I chose this section because I was very intrigued by a study conducted by Richard LaPiere in the early 1900s, in which he tests if racism is stronger in a theoretical or physical sense. When I first read this passage, I was confused in two ways: first, I did not have a sense of what “doubling down on what makes people different” meant; additionally, I was skeptical of Brooks’s use of the study to make conclusions about modern day racism, as even he himself admits that race tensions are dissimilar from LaPiere’s conclusions. To answer my first question, I reread the passage where Brooks describes LaPiere’s study; from that, I realized that Brooks is saying that the general stereotypes of people are what we cannot double down on. He is admitting that the way to stem racism is not by making people accept the idea of other races as a whole; rather, he is saying that racism can be more effectively mitigated through person to person connection. This also helped me realize that LaPiere’s conclusion, that racism is stronger in a theoretical sense than a person to person sense, can be applicable today through the use of the internet. While Brook’s does not address online racism directly, I more understand his claim that LaPiere’s study can be useful to the modern mitigation of racism by thinking through that lens. Therefore, I think that this small passage is a micro-version of his overall thesis; racism, he’s saying, has spanned all of America’s history, and the glimpses of its past (such as LaPiere’s study) have tremendous power in the fight against it today. The idea of discrimination through time reminds me of the question that Professor Quillen raised: why were many writers long ago (1500s-1600s) so open to examining the writings of those very different from themselves, and when did this sentiment begin to falter?