University of BC psychologist: To counter racism, stop trying to be “culture blind”

UBC social psychologist Ara Norenzayan

I’ve finally figured out why so many Canadians are confused about racism.

My clarity emerged during a conversation about multiculturalism with Ara Norenzayan, a social psychologist at the University of B.C., who was raised in Lebanon.
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Norenzayan and a global team have received $3.8 million [!] from government bodies and the Templeton Foundation to explore moral and religious beliefs across the world…

To combat stereotyping, Norenzayan says students in most North American high schools are being trained to be “colour-blind,” or, more broadly, “culture blind.”
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But when these teenagers start showing up on campuses, many of them remove their blinders. They recognize people of other colours and cultures are actually, in many cases, quite different.

At UBC and SFU, where so-called “visible minorities” predominate, many people hold different values in part because they belong to ethno-cultural groups and religions rooted in far regions of the planet.

Even in such a hyper-diverse context, however, some academics try to ignore reality. They convince themselves everyone is the same. Norenzayan doesn’t get it.

“I never understood why emphasizing our common humanity means ignoring cultural differences. It’s racist to assume that others are just like us, when they aren’t.”

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