The Psychology of Prejudice Against African Americans and Literary Pedagogical Solutions

Pearl Nielsen

Abstract

This paper examines the psychological factors which motivate racist behaviors toward African Americans and the ways in which these discriminatory behaviors can affect the emotions and behaviors of their victims. This research, in addition to the included study of college students’ reactions to reading and discussing literature, attempts to prove that pedagogical discourse about the psychological effects of racial prejudice can cause an alteration in the psychology causing racism. To prove this assertion, this paper analyzes various degrees of psychological distress which African Americans experience as victims of racism and then illustrates the importance of reducing racism through psychological and literary education. This paper also includes a study in which twenty two college students read literature with themes of racial prejudice and then discuss this literature in a group setting. This study was conducted to study students’ reactions to the types of literary pedagogy proposed in this paper, testing the effects of this style of learning on students’ empathy and understanding of racial issues.