tv Ali Velshi on Target Al Jazeera November 25, 2015 9:00pm-9:31pm EST
pardon him. turkey sounds like more like a duck. well, we'll duck, too. that's our news for the hour. ducking out of here. randall pinkston. ali velshi "on target" next. i'm ali velshi, on target tonight, unconscious bias. a hidden view on race that could be yours whether you know it or not frment unrest on campus, what student activists want and how they plan to get it. here's one good reason to give thaks. students are doing exactly what college students in america should do. they're making their voices and opinions heard loud and clear. it's happening at prince stone
and yale on the east coast. at the university of missouri in the midwest, and at claremont mckenna college in california and many other schools. students are speaking out about what they consider racial discrimination, insensitivity and a lack of news. at princeton administrators have agreed to consider demands by some protesters that woodrow wilson's name be removed from the campus because of his racist views and legacy. earlier this month the university of missouri named michael middleton interim president. he's black, and he replaces tim wolf, who resigned after criticism of how he handled racism on campus. in response to a question, middleton says he doesn't blame white people that don't understand why black people feel marginalized in america. instead, he said, quote, i blame our ugly history. to move beyond that, we have to preserve a critical part of american history, and that's the
right to free speech. students protesting alleged discrimination cannot let their passions drown out people with opposing views. that only hurts their cause, and they can't intimidate journalists whose right it is to document other people exercising their rights. i'm talking here about the university of missouri photographer confronted by protesters trying to create a so-called safe space free of media coverage. i'm talking about protesters in smith college in massachusetts who tried to bar journalists from a sit-in unless they expressed support for the students. the point is universities have to be safe spaces for everyone to debate or document anything taking place in public. and anything including our arguing about speech itself. that is where the word microaggressions comes into play. this is a term that describes the use of words, phrases, or blooi behavior that a mooifrt fwrup finds offensive or insulting.
i'm talking about subtle unintentional slights that come off as tone-deaf by white privileged people including joe biden called barack obama an african-american who is articulate and bright and clean in 2008. today the term microaggressions is part of the conversation about making universities more welcoming to everyone. now, some people say that this is all another example of political correctness run amuck. that's a conversation that's worth having. a conversation where each side listens to the other and tries to understand what comes off as racist may not come off as racist to you or vice versa. before having that conversation, it pays to understand the degree to which all of us are affected by something called unconscious bias. research shows that unconscious bias shows up in people who many would assume to be the least likely to be racist. sometimes with potential deadly consequences. our science correspondent jake ward has this report.
>> the students of uc berkeley, birthplace of counterculture and a leading source of peace corps volunteers might seem like the last group of people more likely to shoopt an unarmed black man than an unarmed white manner. you will find the same racial bias here that serves as the root of the controversy gripping the nation. >> they will exhibit a bias that runs counter to their values. as troubling as the implications are for what's going on in policing in america today, it's a compelling demonstration of the power of these implicit biases to cause us to exhibit behavior we don't want to, and that negatively affects others. >> jack is an associate professor of public policy at uc berkeley. he runs an unconscious bias study replicated by other social scientists across the country.
>> instead of asking people would you shoot a black guy faster? would you be okay shooting a black guy? we look at their behavior with differences in milliseconds and it reflects an automatic process they may not be aware of. the trigger is here. >> the participant is told to shoot all armed targets and not hit unarmed ones. the research shows that subjects shoot an armed or unarmed black person more quickly and more often than whites, but they decide not to shoot an unarmed white man sooner and more frequently than a black man. ian mcgregor is a senior at uc berkeley. although he figured out what he should be doing, it was tough to avoid bias. >> i realize this is going to be a racially motivated perceptional thing. i was trying to consolidate what i was thinking. obviously, this is the right thing to do. then sometimes -- i mean, it's tough. i'm not a police officer, but i can only imagine what they go through. >> performing in this task doesn't make you a racist
person. >> even the researchers who conduct the study and take it still see their own disturbing unconscious biases affecting their actions. >> are you still shooting unarmed black men? >> yeah, and failing to shoot armed white men. that's the mistake i make the most commonly. my unconscious brain sees white people as safer and black people more threatening. >> i hate to admit but i was surprised and disappointed by my own reaction. just shot a black man. >> you'd be surprised. on average people tend to respond the way you are responding. >> we're going to flip the board around, and there are two people depicted. as quickly as you can, point to the person you would believe would most likely be a criminal. >> as this stanford university test shows, blacks can demonstrate unconscious racial bias against people of color. >> that's like the answer. >> researchers say unconscious bias is how the brain deals with information on overload.
the brain stores 11 million pieces of information but we only process 40 bits at any given time. bias is like a mental shortcut. >> if all of our memory and recollection of things was conscious and deliberative, it would be debilitating. most of our thinking happens outside of conscious awareness and control. >> as a result, societal stereotypes buried deep within the subconscious rear their ugly heads, especially when split second decisions are involved. >> if you want to control your bias, you have to think you're capable of bias in the first place. >> this isn't just abstract research. these social scientists try to bring out unconscious bias not just in random subjects in the lab, they bring it out in people like police officers. the professor is building a justice database of police stops and shootings in cooperation with more than 40 national police departments to track the signs of bias. >> officers are the fifrs time to tell you it's terrifying whether they come under fire, and the question is can we get
them to the point where a police officer would be able to focus more on the hans of the suspect and not the color of the hands but what's in them? >> jacob ward joins me now from san francisco. jake, i can't get enough of this story. unconscious bias is very closely related to what we've been talking about here, microaggression. help me understand how these two are connected. >> it's hard to measure. by it's name it's not conscious. people are exhibiting biases that oftentimes conflict with their explicit beliefs. if you were to write these biases down on a piece of paper, they would say i never expressed that kind of idea. that's the whole point of it. that by its nature is incredibly difficult to measure. micro-aggressions have since 2007 been the subject of an effort to kalt categorize them.
attacks have been formed around aggressions talking about the small ones, things like asking someone, oh, where are you from? asking an interracial couple how did you meet all the way through to things like checking somebody's i.d. gratuitously whether they enter a certain college facility. those are the beginning of an efrpt to try and measure this. >> herein lies the rub. i ask people where they are and ask interracial couples how they met. having watched this reporting, i niensd possibly on the wrong side of the equation sometimes. never mind measuring it. is it possible for me or anyone else to avoid having these biases or rid myself of them? >> you know, there are a number of studies that are trying to look at that problem, because not only are we trying to sort of measure this but do away with it. i should mention that college campuses are a particularly difficult problem because whereas in a police department you have years and years to try and improve things because your
work force lasts a good long while. in a university environment, people are cycling through at least every four years, so it makes it difficult to change. that said, the evidence seems to be that there's a number of ways you can sort of deprejudice somebody. you can expose them to people who contradict their stereotypes. that's a very effective way of doing it. just ongoing exposure is helpful, and we see the results in the body itself. there's one australian study that shows that chinese iment grants studied there, when they were shown people of their own race being subjected to pain, a certain part of their cortex lit up more than it did when they were shown somebody of another race. that reaction went down over five years of exposure to a more diverse society. that kind of stuff can change you. in fact, one researcher has, in fact, administered a beta-blocker to test subjects and found this particular beta-blocker seems to turn off implicit bias like a faucet.
there's definitely a physiological basis to this. there's a psychological basis to this, and we're slowly trying to develop the tools to help us fight implicit bias. >> it's very dangerous if it's somebody that has to enforce the law and sees a black person as dangerous with a gun or cell phone in their hand. is it all that dangerous on the other end of the spectrum, the micro-aggressions that night take place or when they ask an interracial couple where they met? can we be okay with it? >> the research shows it's incredibly damaging. the stakes aren't as high whether you talk about life-and-death decisions police make. when it comes to the small slights that someone might experience on a repeated basis, you're truly talking about the sort of psychological deaths by 1,000 cuts. if somebody is made to feel over and over again they don't belong on a college campus and have to show their i.d. twice to get in
the computer lab to the school this they pay so much to go to, they add up over time. eventually you have a sense of otherness, a new pew research project into millenials they're one of the most distrustful groups in american history and the most racially diverse group in american history. these are correlated things that are positive. there's a connection here between the sort of sense of being excluded from the mainstream model of america and the sense that somehow you're not going to trust people in the future. >> we're going to need to discuss this a lot more. every time i talk to you about, i have to think about it and we have to have another discussion because it's really a big thing to get my head around. jacob, always good to have you on. thank you so much. >> i love to do it. thank you. i look at the responsibilities colleges have to ensure free speech and deal with micro-aggressions on campus.
from university of missouri to yale university to claremont colleges, we saw students speaking forcefully out about what they consider to be racial discrimination, insensitivity and a lack of inclusiveness on campuses. in some cases they drown out others that may have opposing views and that has sparked accusations of political krekness run amuck. others say a history of perceived slights referred to as
micro-aggressions is doing really damage to society. i'm joined by fabio rojas from indiana university. he joins me from indianapolis. professor, thank you for joining us. let's starts with this issue of free speech on campuses. some argue that free speech itself is under attack in the very place that it shouldn't be, that free speech should be flourishing. do you afwree. >> i don't think i quite agree with that. i think there's conflicts about what you can and can't say. i think people can have honest disagreements about the difference between offering a sdending point of view and attacking or taunting someone else. these arguments are very important to have. we need to be able to express a difference of opinions without alienating other people or making people feel they're not want odd campus. >> who determines what line is? >> well, there are many people that determine it. first the students who pay tuition to be there, the
teachers, the faculty such as myself that have classes. the administrators who run the whole operation and set up rules for interaction on campus and the wider society. these are parents that help to pay for tuition. these may be politicians who help run public universities. of course, the media contributes to what is the definition of what is good and bad on campus. >> i guess those definitions evolve over time, but what we see play out and eve seen this play out in different points in history is the conflict between a space at university, probably the best space anywhere to have intellectual conversations and get into heated conflict, and at the same time these communities trying to create safe spaces for all the constituents, what's your sense of where we are in this effort to bring those two things together? >> well, i think we've made a lot of progress. if you look at colleges 50 or
100 years ago, people certainly didn't have freedom of speech. in the 1950s or 1800s it was very common for university administrators and professors to just censor what students would say. we've come a long way since then. now students can say a lot more. they can say controversial things. now they're expected to argue with each other and they're expected to argue with the faculty. we've made a lot of progress with respect to allowing students to say whatever they want. now we're to a point where people can abuse that privilege, they can do things to make other students feel like they're not wanted on campus. we have to talk about what the line is between freedom of spreech and making sure that everybody feels as if they belong to the campus. >> even the language we use, when you say the media has an influence on this, if we talk about freedom of speech going too far or political correctness running amuck, are they at odds
with each other intellects uall? >> in some ways they are and some ways they aren't. if you take the view that free speech is whatever i want in any circumstance in any way, that will be complicated about people that are politically correct. if you think of free speech as being defined by where you say it, so for example we're not allowed to scream fire in a theater, where you say it such as, say, a court, for example, in courts you can have arguments, but they have to be done in a civil way that respects other people. i think these two approaches are closer to each other than you might think. >> let me ask you something you talked about, how 50 or 100 years ago there wasn't the same freedom on campus. part of what you're arguing is back then universities and their administrations had the right to do all sorts of things.
they can expel students without dew point, and there's a real wave is change in the way we see the role of students on campuses. it used to be that campuses were places where, you know, they took over for your parents and they were in charge. now students are members of a community. >> that's absolutely correct. so, for example, 100 years ago university administrators had a right to teach what they wanted to teach and had the right to discipline students. they also even had the right to tell you what to eat, how to dress, alcohol was prohibited on most campuses before the 1950s, for example. that all changed in the '50s and '60s when people took colleges to court. the court said the college had to provide due process and protection for students. the flipside is once you provide due process and protection for students, you give them the freedom to do more things than
they were able to do before. >> so the issue here -- >> that's a big change. >> the issue here whether we talk about due process and freedom, we're looking at all these colleges and a case where there are two groups. it's not clear, depends on who you talk to, who the victim is. is the victim in the case of yale, france for instance, the minorities students that feel excluded because of things that were done, or is the victim the people that want to express themselves through their halloween costumes or writing about what you should be able to wear for halloween who don't want to be victimized by those who would like to not have them say what they want to say? >> i think there's a little bit of both happening on campuses. so, for example, at yale one of the accusations was that a fraternity excluded non-white students or some non-white students from attending one of their events. if that actually happened, i would say that that's something that is unfair ha the administration could look at as almost certainly against the
student handbook rules at yale. on the other hand, there are also cases where people feel that because they feel upset by somebody else's opinion that gives them permission to shout somebody down, to disrupt people. so, for example, you occasionally see on campuses where a speaker is invited to campus. they may have a controversial opinion, and then people will literally yell at them while they're speaking and not even let them express their views, even though they're a guest of the university or the student group that invited them. i think there's a little bit of both on campus, happening on campus right now. >> professor, good to talk to you. fabio rojas is an associate professor of sociology at indiana university. coming up, forget what you know about student protests. campus activism in the modern era is a whole new ball game.
campus activism is a powerful force in america. over the past month we have a new generation of college students marching, shouting and fist-pumping and making demands. welch a ground level look at what's fueling this area of unrest and how it differs from college protests of the past. >> reporter: chanting for college debt relief in
massachusetts. lying down for racial respect in new york. successfully demanding the ouster of a dean at a small college in california and of the college president at the university of missouri. students today are reaching back to the days of mass demonstrations. >> i was in the iraq war in student activism. i think there's been a lot of -- there hasn't been enough. i think it's great that the students are looking at these issues. >> these aren't the protests of decades past. there's no grand plans to change the world and no chants of end the war or ban the bomb. these are more personal rallies with immediate demands, and when it comes to racism on campus, they explain why. >> in some ways students in the late 1960s had an easier time raising the issue of racism because they were part of the broad black freedom struggle. they were part of the black
liberation movement. today there's a widespread notion that america say color blind society. we have a black man in the white house. so students, i think, face this initial challenge of just being taken seriously. >> millions of african-americans follow the example of dr. martin luther king and turned the other cheek in the face of racial insults, but nowadays students here at the university of missouri are taking names and keeping score. >> students are being threatened. you know, we have administration that has been under constant attack and under threats. >> he says minority protesters started to speak up after last year's violence in ferguson, missouri, but at times the campus backlash has been fierce. a single seveningle from an anonymous student can set off a panic. floo this is your first amendment to protect your rights and means. >> the aclu warned against schools try be so hard to be
encluesive they stifle free speech and use campus police as the thought police. another kemp close to students' hearts these days is their wallets. college students around the country took to the streets in the million student march demanding sweeping changes to higher education. they want tuition-free public college, cancellation of all student debt, and a $15 minimum wage for all college workers. and sometimes the push for more affordable college even intersects with the push for racial diversity. linda stubblefield nands to get her money's worth. >> this is a learning environment. i haven't had an african-american teacher yet since i've been here. >> money may play the biggest role yet. missouri's president resigned less than 48 hours after the black football players threatened to walk, a prospect that could have cost the school millions of dollars. >> money is involved. you have to quit and resign. >> do you think that was the case.
>> that could be the case. that's funny. >> thank you, jesus. >> cynical or not, in missouri and in california, protesters got what they wanted and as the old saying go, any port of anyway in a storm. on target tomorrow a national shame. >> i've been homeless for 16 years now. >> there's no reason that a veteran should ask for something and not receive it. >> we need to up hold the rights of every veteran, and that includes ending the tragedy of homelessness among veterans. >> they're helping a lot of folks. >> despite the numbers, we're out there. >> it's very important for me to get a place so she can be with me. >> that's "on target" tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. eastern. that's our show for today. i'm ali velshi. thanks for joining us. the news continues here on al jazeera america.
game down? >> absolutely not, no one was slowing the train down. >> and the white house trying to rein them in today. thank you for joining us i'm joie chen. tonight a look at crime, justice and what may prove president obama's last major campaign. an all-out effort to force change in the criminal justice system. a key part reducing the sentences that many consider excessive for minor drug crimes. much identified is in need of