Behavior Modification: Let’s Make Racism Bad Again

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the millions of Americans who voted for Trump.

This was a candidate who had at least 26 women come forward and accuse him of sexual assault. He also admitted to sexual assault in an interview, on the record. This was a candidate who refused to denounce white supremacists on national television. This was a candidate who incited violence and spread conspiracy theories. The list is long. Too long. This doesn’t even begin to cover it.

As a person with a psychology degree and a mental health counseling degree, I aim to try and understand other people’s worldview. I am fascinated by how people think and what motivates their behavior.

One of my (many) pet peeves is when people dismiss others’ behavior by saying, “I just don’t understand.” A flipside of that is to oversimplify or label a person’s behavior, also in an attempt to dismiss it: “Oh, he’s just a monster.” “She snapped.” “She’s crazy.”

In instances of flippant labeling like that, there’s no curiosity, no desire to actually seek to understand or find out the real, nuanced answer.

And so I ask myself, why did people vote for 45? Did they:

  • Agree with his policies and morals?
  • Benefit from those policies?
  • Or perhaps, they just disagreed with Biden’s policies (or perceived policies)?
  • If they didn’t agree or benefit, did they somehow justify 45’s actions/words enough to feel okay voting for him?
  • Vote Republican out of habit? Or because their friends and family do?
  • They consume Fox News/Breitbart/etc.?
  • Some other explanation I haven’t thought of?

I ask myself these questions because, ultimately, I am interested in how sociopolitical change happens on a macro level. Namely, how do we get people who voted for a racist, misogynist, white supremacist to change their voting habits? How do we make racism bad again (or ever)?

I studied behavior modification briefly in grad school, and I find it fascinating. Getting people to vote and get vaccinated and wear masks and use car seats are examples of behavior modification on a mass scale, as is getting people to buy Gap jeans or the new iPhone.

This reminds me of the massive anti-drug campaigns I was exposed to growing up. “This is your brain on drugs…any questions?” Really stuck with me, as that ad was so compelling and wonderfully quotable.

My guess is that the answer to my question involves attacking the issue from all sides meaning, on both a micro and macro level. I read a quote somewhere from a BLM leader, and I’m paraphrasing: what will help to end racism more is for white people to call out the racist tendencies of their white friends, and not necessarily just befriending black people. Which means we’re going to fight racism little by little, interaction by microaggression.

I keep coming back to the question of how to whittle away harmful, fear-based beliefs of a massive group of people who are no doubt feeling all kinds of feelings after the election. Worse yet, it’s a group of people who have been taught to demonize truth and facts, and many are doubling down with the emergence of platforms like Parler. …How do you reach people who don’t wanna be woke? Again, I’m guessing the answer is: slowly and deliberately and on all fronts. With equal representation, by changing social norms, by calling out microaggressions, and probably much more that I am forgetting or am unaware of.

It makes me profoundly uncomfortable to know that such a large portion of the American population actively participates in an ignorant, fearful, hateful worldview or is at least accepting of them. My hope (maybe fantasy?) is that there is a team of psychologists out there somewhere, brainstorming a massive campaign to combat racism, misogyny, xenophobia, white supremacy, etc.

Where do I sign up?


Day 9

There aren’t enough cinnamon rolls in the world

This is an exciting time, in a way. Exciting and disheartening to say the least.

(I have mixed feelings about trigger warnings, but nevertheless, here’s one for talk of all the sexual assault allegations in the media currently going on.)

So many survivors of sexual violence are coming forward to place blame, rightfully and publicly, squarely on the alleged perpetrators in Hollywood, in television, and in politics. I even hesitate to say “alleged” in that last sentence because people rarely lie about being victims of sexual assault. In my profession and my experience, I believe a survivor. Always.

I am so proud of all those survivors who have come forward, even when their perpetrator is famous, powerful, a dickhead, or all three. I know there are several times more survivors out there who haven’t spoken out, and those who have come forward give all the others strength and hope.

I feel a shift happening. Hopefully this is another wave of human beings rising up and making it normal to say, “Hey! You can’t treat people this way. We see you and your actions and you will be held accountable.”

I’ve watched the news as day after day, more allegations have come out and people are screaming for Roy Moore to drop out of his race. House of Cards was effectively canceled. Louis C.K.’s movie was shelved.

I watched an episode of Megyn Kelly’s new Today Show where she put up pictures of man after man accused of sexual assault and listed off what each asshole had been accused of doing. For once, the focus was on the perpetrators and not the victims. I felt a weird combination of….elation, hope, and disgust.

Elation – YES! We are holding perpetrators publicly to the fire and screaming that this behavior is despicable in a way that I’ve never seen before.

Hope – Maybe momentum will build. Maybe this is the beginning of something bigger. Maybe lasting change will happen.

Disgust – For there to be so many, SO MANY survivors, there are tons of perpetrators out there. I admit, I’ve had feelings of deep disappointment to find out that people whose work I enjoy and admire have been accused of sexual assault. This SUCKS. Why do so many men think this is ok and think they can get away with it?! (#patriarchy)

Tonight, I was eating some leftover cinnamon roll when I learned about allegations against Louis C.K. I was shocked, disgusted, and disappointed. At a loss, I started shoving more cinnamon roll into my mouth. It seemed like the right thing to do.

My husband and I joked that there aren’t enough cinnamon rolls in the world because all this feels like too much.

Maybe one day we’ll have more than enough cinnamon rolls because people will remember to stop sexually assaulting other people and then lie about it. That sentence made sense in my head, but I think you get my drift.


NaBloPoMo Day 13