For the past few weeks, members of the NOISE Project have been coding responses from interviews that were conducted over the summer. During the coding process, we scan interview answers for their main ideas, and then assign them words or phrases that capture these themes. These words and phrases are called codes. For more information on coding, check out Luna Castelli’s video here! Each week, we’ll outline our “Moment of the Week,” in which we share an interesting coding discussion. Here’s this week’s!
What They Said
Question: Have non-people of color in the collaboration become more comfortable speaking publicly about race and racism?
“At least what I’ve seen here at the lab is that white people who are at the lab that are in any way associated with this project are terrified of saying the wrong thing. Suddenly they realize that there are lots of wrong things to say…And so they either disengage or they clam up or they do things like not wanting to be recorded or not wanting to participate or all of these things.”INTERVIEWEE
How We Coded It
- Here, the interviewee discusses whether non-people of color have become more comfortable discussing issues of race and racism. The interviewee states that white people are “terrified” in these discussions. From this, we applied the simple code fear, as these white employees are fearful of making a statement that will be perceived as ignorant. We also applied the code friction, because of the tension and apparent friction that exists when these topics are discussed
- A code that we discussed extensively–and eventually did apply to this answer–was institutional racism. Our definition for this code is: “A systemic pattern of racial discrimination that has become established as normal behavior within a society or institutions.”
- The question at hand is as follows: is the fact that white employees do not want to talk about race and racism (as a result of their fear of making offensive comments) a form of institutional racism?
- Our team of coders answered “yes” to this question, and did believe that this behavior is a form of institutional racism. To address the first part of the definition, the “normal behavior” that occurs in our institution is that lab employees intentionally avoid conversations surrounding racism. Secondly, by not actively having conversations, seeking solutions, and addressing the past history of racism that exists in the institution, this institution allows racism to continue. And, if racism is allowed to continue in this institution, this will surely negatively affect certain groups. In this way, neglecting to have conversations about race and racism contributes to and allows for the racial discrimination of certain groups, making this behavior an instance of institutional racism. This was our thought process when applying the code.
- This is another powerful example of privilege. Here, the interviewee notes that white people have the ability and opportunity to simply “clam up” and avoid discussing racism. This is not a privilege that people of color have–for these individuals, it is impossible to avoid racism, as it affects them personally each and every day.
Question for thought:
Explicit and egregious instances of racism–such as the use of derogatory slurs and the exclusion of individuals based upon the color of their skin–is obvious to all. However, what are other forms of racism or institutional racism that are not as apparent?
Do you agree with the codes we applied? Do you disagree? Are you comfortable with the thought process that took place? Let us know!