You are waiting for an interview ( e.g for a job/management seat/university seat) along with two more candidates. You talk among yourselves, you find out each others’ background, and that you all are equally qualified. One person steps into the interview room, and someone sitting next to you says, ‘he is gonna get it, he has reservation’. How do u react to it, if you are a non-dalit, non-obc candidate? If in the interview, you are asked which one of the two you ‘d be interested to work with, who would u pick? What if the person used a more severe form of ‘casteist’ remark(!) instead?
A Science paper suggests that, although in an imagined situation (like the one above) you may feel more agitated and emotionally distressed; in a real situation you are more likely to show indifference. You rely on your conscious egalitarian attitudes when predicting your future emotions, but the actual emotions (in a real situation) may have been shaped more by nonconscious negative attitudes.
When our actual emotions surprise us like this, it is called “failure of forecasting”. In many situations, its a good thing cause they show us a side of ours we haven’t consciously noted. It tells us who we are, how we identify ourselves. A very important function of emotion.
(I have just transformed a situation of “an act of racism” to “an act of casteism”. It is permissible since they are very similar, but also because talking about how ‘target of prejudice react” the paper cited studies from ‘sexism’ not ‘racism’. )
Remember the last time you witnessed such incident. If you can’t remember it is probably because of your indifference. OK, may be I am pushing too much. The following questions might help you.
- How did you feel when in movies an infuriated person said “Teri Jatka”? (can be seen in numerous movies)
- What did you think of the songs “Kahan raja bhoj, kahan gangoo teli”(Dulhe Raja), “mauhalle me kaisi maar-a-maar hai
bole mochi bhi khud ko sonaar hai”(Aja Nachle)?
- What do you feel when you read Mahendra Singh Tikait made a casteist remark? What did u feel when it turned into a fiasco?
- How did you react when you witnessed a real discrimination and/or a casteist abuse?
These incidents probably met your indifference. If so, it could be because the social and emotional cost of a protest or (in more direct case, penalty) is high or because you have egalitarian belief that aids your deliberate responses, but you continue to harbour nonconscious negative feelings for the other castes. Whatever that is, we are discussing about people who carry the ‘social identity’ of liberal and egalitarian. In Indian society, there is just handful of you. The sheer number of hits (in google search) in defense of Tikait or Aja Nachle, in the name of freedom of speech or anyother arguments bear that fact.
Concluding remark of the paper
Besides providing a conceptual contribution, the present studies also have immediate practical relevance. In particular, despite current egalitarian cultural norms and apparent good intentions, one reason why racism and discrimination remain so prevalent in society may be that people do not respond to overt acts of racism in the way that they anticipate: They fail to censure others who transgress these egalitarian norms. These findings provide important information on actual responses to racism that can help create personal awareness and inform interventions, thereby helping people to be as egalitarian as they think they will be.
P.S. I have no formal training in social psychology. But I am enthusiastic about evolutionary and social psychology.
P.P.S. If the science link does not work, you probably need subsciption. In that case drop me a mail(or the authors) for the paper.