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Douglas Todd: To avoid stereotyping, forget being ‘colour blind’

Submitted by on April 23, 2014 – 6:53 amNo Comment | 3,578 views

Some academic are realizing that recognizing, understanding cultural differences is true path to getting along in multicultural society.

’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.

We agreed key values underlying Canada’s “multicultural mosaic” are these: Avoid stereotyping, emphasize our common humanity, assume people are the same “under the skin” and act “colour blind” (or “culture blind”).

But, as Norenzayan helped me realize, these well-meaning Western values may contain the seeds of a certain form of racism.

To help sort out such ethical dilemmas, 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. Some of their research appears in Norenzayan’s new book, Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict (Princeton University Press).

Before explaining more about their research, however, let’s follow Norenzayan’s thoughts on what is happening on North American campuses.

To combat stereotyping, Norenzayan says students in most North American high schools are being trained to be “colour-blind,” or, more broadly, “culture blind.”

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.

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