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.