Julie Park, associate professor in the College of Education at the University of Maryland, used data to argue that people have cognitive biases when it comes to race relations on campus and campus-related topics, like affirmative action, Greek life and self-segregation in her lecture “Race on Campus.”
The lecture took place on Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 6:30 p.m. in Love Library South Room 102 and was hosted by the Chancellor’s Commission on the Status of People of Color.
In her book, “Race on Campus: Debunking Myths with Data,” Park argues there are myths about diversity on campus and those myths hide how diversity affects campus life, which she mentioned during her lecture.
People commonly hear things like “race just divides us” or “all black people at elite colleges are rich,” Park said.
“In reality, black students are seven times more likely to come from low-socioeconomic backgrounds than white students,” she said. “White students are much more likely to come from the highest socioeconomic bracket.”
She said people tend to form those types of myths because of cognitive bias, a way of thinking that affects decisions and judgments.
“We think we know everything,” she said.
Park cited the idea of System 1 and System 2, two distinct ways of decision-making created by Israeli-American psychologist Daniel Kahneman. System 1 is an automatic, fast and often unconscious way of thinking, while System 2 is an effortful, slow and controlled way of thinking, according to Kahneman.
Park said people tend to make decisions using System 1 and said there are a few cons to that, like how it lays the foundations for stereotypes.
“It’s our automatic thinking and can have real life consequences,” she said. “An example of this is how the police often shoot black and brown people.”
Park said people often criticize how minority students tend to hang out with people of the same race as them when, in reality, students of color have the highest cross-racial interaction and interracial friendships.
“Just because people are interacting for part of the day with people of the same race, [it] doesn’t mean they can’t have other times of the day where they’re interacting with people of different races,” she said. “You can do both.”
Park said ethnic student groups tend to be a lifeline for underrepresented minority students and a place for them to feel like less of a minority.
“Interacting outside of your racial group, although it’s a good thing, it’s something that can be cognitively and psychologically [draining],” she said. “The more of a minority you are, the more [draining] this experience is.”
Park said she feels those who criticize ethnic groups for self-segregating themselves forget that Greek life has a history of self-segregation.
“It’s linked with lower rates of interracial friendship for white students,” she said.
Park said the strength of groups and mob mentality leads to racially-motivated incidents like a fraternity at The University of Oklahoma yelling a racist chant.
“The sum of the whole is greater than the individual,” she said.
Ebben Blake, a freshman advertising and public relations major, said he has friends who attended the event for extra credit. He said he thought attending the event was an opportunity to learn more about diversity and race on campus.
“Even though we claim we are diverse, there’s a lot of things we still have to work on,” he said.
Blake said this event made him more aware of cognitive bias and other resources to address this topic.
“There's a lot of other reading material that people have published and created for people to wake up from their false reality,” he said.