Trust Nobody, Not Even Yourself

Title and content inspired by this wonderful meme

This week, we shifted gears from analyzing branches of cheating to dissecting the fundamental roots of competition: trust. Carlin and Love discuss in-group/out-group trust biases and further clarify the multifaceted nature of trust partisanship. Through their paper, we learn that a stranger’s partisanship is a key identifying factor of how we posit our trust in them. However, what caught my interest in this paper was the brief encounter that this paper has with racial identification. While it only harbours a third of influence over partisanship, it is still a significant factor to how people seem to trust one another. Of course, with in-group favouritism, you’re bound to find more comfort and solidarity with your own ethnic community.

But what if you’re a victim of internalized racial oppression?

In this reading response, I want dig deeper into this script reversal by defining key terms, presenting examples, and hopefully prompting further discussion on this.

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First things first, let’s get our definitions straight. I’ve sourced these terms up from reliable and sustainable farms of knowledge so you don’t have to!

Carlin and Love first loan their definition from Denise M. Rousseau’s 1998 scholarly article on a cross-disciplinary look on trust , describing it as the “intention to accept vulnerability based on positive expectations of another”. They then take the liberty to rephrase it in their own terms to better suit their own study: “thus, trust reflects the perceived trustworthiness of others”. While it’s not the best standalone definition, we’ll roll with it.

Internalized Racism or Internalized Racial Oppression
Alright kids, if you thought racism doesn’t exist in Canada, you’re sorely mistaken. Baltimore community leader and social justice educator Jabari Lyles explains in his TEDx Talk, “Black Self / White World“, that internalized racism “happens when black folks, people of colour, start to behave or act in manners that uphold whiteness and white supremacy.” Karen D. Pyke, a sociology professor at the University of California, Riverside, also notes that this feature of racism is a “subject largely absent from the race literature” due to its taboo nature.

If you need an example, here’s one about The Doll Test.

In-groups and Out-groups
Based on our class discussion, I’ve assumed the expertise to explain that groups that you identify with are your in-groups. Out-groups are groups that challenge or misalign with the values of your in-groups. Trust me, you can trust me.

Now that we have these terms out of the way, I want to recount a couple run-ins with internalized racism and understand the topography of this feature in attempt to see how trust discrimination becomes counterintuitive in an environment where you can’t trust your own kind.

Whilst visiting my best friend in Toronto during reading week, I had a fascinating conversation with her coworker who was in his fifth year of university, studying social work at York U. We’ll call him AB. We had completely different upbringings. Having grown up with a densely east-asian community, I never felt out of place in looks or in culture; however, AB is one of eight Sudanese people in his vast social network, and despite growing up in a strong black community, traces of isolation followed him throughout his childhood. We spoke lots about our differences in racial character, and the foils of our youth to get to where we are now. Long story short, internalized racism was everywhere in both our communities, and it was so easy to glaze over them until we finally defined what they were.

AB mentions how he makes the conscious choice of not wearing hoodies at all because he feels uncomfortable in them.

Hoodies? Uncomfortable?

It took some context to understand why. With the notorious Trayvon Martin incident, it’s revealed that the combination of hoodies and black men in particular somehow translates into a threat in the minds of many. This is a stereotype that an out-group enforced within his own in-group. While he doesn’t necessarily have a strict dress code, hoodies are the one item of clothing he avoids, and AB admits that this is a symptom of falling victim to internalized racism as a black man.

He also remembers his mom imprinting on AB to marry outside his own race – “whites or asians only.” When I hear this, I think of my dad always being ready to verbally demolish Chinese businessmen during his business trips east but cowers and softens himself towards a White salesperson at our local car dealership. Perhaps it’s context dependent, but having lived with him most of my life, I assure you that this isn’t the case despite my lack of ability to think of a better example.

As Carlin and Love push to explain how there is in-group favouritism and bias, I believe that there is also in-group distrust and anti-semitism as well, and these weren’t necessarily accounted for in their study. While racial trust biases don’t rhetorically disable anyone from their arguments the same way partisanship trust biases do (with the whole zero-sum game stuff), when you uphold and want to identify with an out-group more than you do with your own in-groups, then that’s where it gets complex. Would the average trust-gap close because people have more favourable impressions of races outside of their own? Would in-group trust reduce because individuals in an ethnic community can’t trust one another? A community with low levels of collective efficacy would probably view its own as incompetent or even inferior to others.

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Effects of Internatlized racism:
Would in-group trust reduce because individuals in an ethnic community can’t trust one another?

Since it’s not a major focus of their study, I think Carlin and Love did a well-rounded job in encompassing other identifying in-groups and their influence. I feel like there’s more to the surface in some of these groups, though, and it considering that there’s a lack of attention paid to the effects of internalized oppression, studying in-group/out-group trust gaps would be an appropriate method to measure the effects and influence it has on victims’ trust levels for their own groups and others around them.

What are your thoughts? Please feel free to share below.

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