Could Prejudice be as Simple as an Aversion to Broken Patterns

I’m having an ocular migraine, and will probably have to take a break soon.  Ocular migraines may or may not be followed by a headache – mine aren’t – but they are still a problem.

Mine are fairly typical.  I get what I describe as a neon caterpillar that moves from the lower left of my vision in both eyes migrating across the center and exiting off of the upper right field of vision.  For about 30-45 minutes I will be unable to do anything requiring vision like reading, writing or – in the past – driving.  They aren’t considered a worrisome condition; just a nuisance.  In the past, most of my auras were triggered by sudden bright light; the sun reflecting off of white sand, switching my microscope from oil immersion to low power or looking into the flash of a camera.  Before lost most of my sight I had 2-3 a week at times.  Now I may go months without one, and I am sure that the images arise in the brain rather than in the eye because the neon caterpillar appears in areas that are now blind.

This morning’s migraine was caused by Halle Berry.

I clicked on the MS Edge browser which displays the weather and top news headlines and read, “Berry answers questions about sexual harassment.”  I wondered, “Halle or Marion” and opened the link.  Halle Berry’s face is enough to cause visual disturbances by itself, but I think the screen was just really bright for some reason.


I’m back and the aura, like Elvis, has left the room.  What I really wanted to talk about is an article I started reading yesterday about the root cause of prejudice.  I say, started, because I put my tablet down and when I reopened the article it was gone, replaced by some other stories.

Briefly, a group of psychologists looking at prejudice wondered whether it might just be the result of an innate dislike for “broken patterns.”  People, in general, don’t like things that break a pattern.  On seeing a row of pencils all lined up in a row with one pencil slightly askew, many people will move the odd pencil to fit. 

I’ve been known, in a stranger’s living room, once that person had left the room for a minute, get up and straighten a picture that was not plumb.

Some people have this compulsion much more than others.  The question was, “Are prejudiced people bothered by the broken pattern of a black person in their otherwise white neighborhood, and why do they create a story about what is fundamentally wrong with the person who breaks the pattern?  Could charges that all Muslims are terrorists, or all black people steal, or homosexuals are a threat to family values be simply a justification for the social equivalent of straightening a picture?

It wasn’t hard to find the story on the web.  It was summarized in the Daily Mail, and on CNN

A part of the study involved creating an imaginary group of people called Flurps.  From the beginning of time Flurps had lived in blue houses.  And then one day a Flurp painted his house green.  Conservatives – those who needed order – reacted as strongly toward the imaginary Flurp deviant as they did to what they viewed as social deviants and crooked pictures.  They described being made anxious and disturbed, and used the same words like “weird” for social deviants and pencils out of line.

The question raised by these studies is whether socially deviant groups are described as dangerous because they break a pattern and that loss of pattern causes distress in conservatives rather than a fear of the group causing prejudice?  Conservatives tend to deny it, but in various tests they express fear about various things three times a often as non-conservatives.

This study found that it could be that simple.  Negative reactions occurred in those needing an orderly picture to not only social groups that were seen as breaking the pattern like LGBTQ individuals, Muslims and racial minorities, but also to highly competent individuals who were seen as cold and aloof.  How many people voted for George W. Bush because he seemed like someone they could have a beer with, while Al Gore was seen as wooden and egg headed?

A separate study reported in 2016 from Queensland, Australia found similar results.

And that brings me around to Halle Berry and Barack Obama.  Halle Berry’s features are a mix of white and black characteristics, her skin is in between, and she is physically attractive to men who are not more attracted to other men.

Barack Obama, likewise, is an in-between in features. 

Obama’s success both as a candidate and as a president is not simply a matter of looks.  He is a powerful speaker and his message of “hope and change” resonated.  Yet, Barack stirred up hatred among white men in a way that Halle never did. And Michelle Obama was vilified by conservatives as well. That difference is not just a matter of pattern deviancy. 

I wonder about how the choices that mixed race individuals have to make as children influence the way they are accepted by majority and minority groups.  Halle Berry seems to move easily into white or black society.  Alicia Keyes, on the other hand, made a decision, encouraged by her white mother, to choose, "which group will treat you better", and chose black.  She is arguably as pretty and as in-between in features as Halle.

An image taken on a subway between Astoria and Manhattan was posted on Instagram and went viral.  It was part of the article in the Daily Mail.

It was seen by liberals as a symbol of what could be, and it was seen by conservatives as deeply disturbing.

Views: 987

Comment by Ron Powell on February 6, 2018 at 2:52pm


"Try lurking at The Root where no one knows you, and read the comment streams. It’s a major opportunity...."

At one point during a pastvexchange, I suggested to Koshersalaami that he would rave a different reaction/response if he could hear the conversation in black Barbershop and beauty parlors...

His reply was that he really could care less aboutconversations in those places...

I don't think he'd take to "lurking" at for the same reasons...

Comment by Ron Powell on February 6, 2018 at 3:01pm


Read "Blacks in Antiquity
Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience"

by, Frank M. Snowden, Jr.

"The Africans who came to ancient Greece and Italy participated in an important chapter of classical history. Although evidence indicated that the alien dark- and black-skinned people were of varied tribal and geographic origins, the Greeks and Romans classified many of them as Ethiopians. In an effort to determine the role of black people in ancient civilization, Frank M. Snowdenexamines a broad span of Greco-Roman experience—from the Homeric era to the age of Justinian—focusing his attention on the Ethiopians as they were known to the Greeks and Romans. The author dispels unwarranted generalizations about the Ethiopians, contending that classical references to them were neither glorifications of a mysterious people nor caricatures of rare creatures.

Mr. Snowden has probed literary, epigraphical, papyrological, numismatic, and archaeological sources and has considered modern anthropological and sociological findings on pertinent racial and intercultural problems. He has drawn directly upon the widely scattered literary evidence of classical and early Christian writers and has synthesized extensive and diverse material. Along with invaluable reference notes, Mr. Snowden has included over 140 illustrations which depict the Negro as the Greeks and Romans conceived of him in mythology and religion and observed him in a number of occupations—as servant, diplomat, warrior, athlete, and performer, among others.

Presenting an exceptionally comprehensive historical description of the first major encounter of Europeans with dark and black Africans, Mr. Snowden found that the black man in a predominantly white society was neither romanticized nor scorned—that the Ethiopian in classical antiquity was considered by pagan and Christian without prejudice."

All of that changed when "on November 27, 1095, Pope Urban II makes perhaps the most influential speech of the Middle Ages, giving rise to the Crusades by calling all Christians in Europe (white people) to war against the Saracen Muslims (black people) in order to reclaim the Holy Land, with a promise of eternal salvation, and a cry of “Deus vult!” or “God wills it!"

The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Christianity edited by John Arnold, John H. Arnold

He did this with language that was as racist as the language of Connor, Wallace, and Maddox in disparaging, dehumanizing, demonizing, and vilifying black people... 

Comment by Anna Herrington on February 6, 2018 at 3:16pm

I find programs like Finding Your Roots and Who Do You Think You Are to be incredibly valuable resources in beginning to understand our various human histories and perspectives....and good for fleshing out a bit within individual family histories, the complexity of larger histories - as well as what realities many have to come to terms with, all races and peoples. Ben Affleck somehow convinced Finding Your Roots to not talk about his slave owner ancestor, the show got a lot of heat about that, years ago. Ugh. But the show came back, is well done, and continues with illuminating stories. 

Coming from a family that has very 'old' family stories and lots of paper trail, photos, portraits - some of the lines, anyway - I'm often surprised by what isn't known about one's grandparents, much less further back, or how complete the erasure of one's family history, as with slavery and the holocaust...or adoption or upheaval...  Some stories can be mundane, but some are so deeply affecting and deeply enlightening as to larger history - and some are very surprising.

Hard to make any assumptions about any larger stereotype, the more I watch.

Stephen Fry's, on the Brit version of WDYTYA, was the last one I watched (on pbs for finding your roots and youtube for the other). Incredible how very clearly shown through one person's family history the larger pictures of class inequality and treatment of the poor, also anti-Semitism, the holocaust, become vivid, with his family story. The visuals drive home deeply the reality of those times for some. Same with Donna Brazile's family story and the horrors of slavery, Whoopi Goldberg's, too, for an unusual story... Sarah Jessica Parker's on colonialism, Salem witch trials... on and on.

I recommend.

... to black TV and black movies, do they still need to be called 'black shows'? 'Being Mary Jane' and 'Empire', to name a couple I think are great shows, are just great TV, imho, and don't need some separate designation because the casts are mostly to all black.... but maybe there's a different reason about not being invisible or some thing else that I don't understand?

Comment by Anna Herrington on February 6, 2018 at 3:24pm

What'd I say now? Or 'cuz of the troll video...

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on February 6, 2018 at 4:06pm

Or 'cuz of the troll video...

Nah.  My bet is on a bad case of constipation...  he's been full of shit for years.  

Luckily Oprah's got us covered...

Image result for colace meme

Comment by Maui Surfer on February 6, 2018 at 4:57pm

SBA you are fucking hilarious ... but, oh, of course not fake at all, not with all your worldly experience- did you used to monitor the card catalog? One Island sure has a lot of background, for sure, but, how about THOUSANDS of them ... and not a one of them fake, we Polynesians got a lock on that, take a look at your globe little Einstein.

Comment by Ron Powell on February 6, 2018 at 4:58pm

@FM; Glad you found something that allows you to make a contribution in a language you can understand:

Comment by Ron Powell on February 8, 2018 at 8:12am

Have a nice day!

Comment by Maui Surfer on February 8, 2018 at 8:32am

Ron, 72 or not you ought to visit the Islands, you'd be amazed what the hapa girls here all look like ... Halle is a treasure, but we have a whole Pirate's chest of them here, and in down in Tahiti, Guam especially too, and around the Pacific Rim. Not all of them can act like her though, that's TALENT! The total package if you will, and she seems awfully smart too so don't want looks to be the whole thing either.

Comment by alsoknownas on February 8, 2018 at 8:45am

I am he as you are he as you are me
And we are all together.

Goo goo g'joob


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