New Video: Exploring the Psychology of Racism

Exploring the Psychology of Racism

  • What motivates one human being to hate another because of the color of their skin or ethnicity?
  • What prompts human beings to feel superior just because of the color of their skin?
  • What are the effects of racism on both victims and perpetrators?

These continue to be important questions for our society.

Back in 2005, the Wisconsin Psychoanalytic Institute held a forum in conjunction with the NAACP’s 96th annual convention in Milwaukee – titled Forum on the Psychology of Racism – to address these questions. The forum was created and organized by Dr. Jan Van Schaik, MD. The goal was to have a serious discussion about the psychological causes and effects of racism.

A video from this forum was recently made available by Milwaukee Public Television and posted to YouTube. Please take a moment to watch it, and then share.

In the video, the panelists -- Paula Kliger PhD, Mark Smaller PhD, Quincy Tharps PhD, Jan Van Schaik MD, and Sandra Walker MD -- addressed how racial identities, negative stereotypes and anxieties become internalized. The panelists then peeled away the intellectual, sociopolitical and ideological layers of discourse about racism in order to reveal the deeply held emotional, personally contextual and relational aspects of racism. They discussed the complex subject and social constructs underlying racism, using the unique racial picture of Milwaukee as an example.

At the forum, Dr. Tharps set the stage by discussing sociocultural aspects of racism that affect all members of society, focusing on the unique racial picture of Milwaukee. In a presentation entitled "Race from the Inside Out,” Dr. Walker discussed the internalization of racism and Dr. Kliger focused on how racist attitudes are conveyed and passed on through mutual reciprocal exchanges between individuals in her paper, "Racism: It Takes Two --The View from Within." Dr. Smaller provided an analytic perspective on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and its relevance for our culture in his talk,  "Reconciling the Truth about Racism in the U.S.: What Can We Learn from South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission?"  

The presentations were followed by a spirited dialogue with the audience in a town hall meeting facilitated by Keith Murphy, a nationally syndicated talk show host. Over 150 people attended the forum.  The audience was a diverse cross-section of the community, including NAACP members, religious leaders, politicians, psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, educators, and other local residents.  Audience members were enthusiastic, viewing the dialogue as a positive step in healing Milwaukee's racial divide.

The next day, at a special scientific meeting of the Wisconsin Psychoanalytic Society, Dr. Kliger, Dr. Tharps, and Dr. Van Schaik facilitated a discussion of race in the therapeutic setting using a film, “The Color of Fear”, as a catalyst. This film is a powerful exploration of racial attitudes among seven ethnically diverse men.  The clinicians who attended the meeting found the discussion helpful in furthering their work with patients from different ethnic or racial backgrounds.