Opinion: The other race effect is racist


School is an opportunity for children to learn about other cultures. Photo of Flickr Creative Commons

In my elementary school, I was the only girl of Indian origin. When I hit middle school, there were two of us—my best friend and me. Both of us had brown skin, but that’s where our similarities ended.

Color me surprised when people started getting our names confused.

It was frustrating, growing up in a predominately Caucasian town where my best friend and I were called twins, sisters and sometimes even mistaken for one another, just because we did not have the same skin color as the majority of people in our grade. People didn’t seem to understand that yes, every time they said “Oh, but you guys look so alike!” they were actually being racist.

The “other race effect” is a very real phenomenon, in which people have a harder time recognizing and distinguishing faces of people from a race other than their own. This is due to a part of the brain called the “fusiform face area” located in the inferior temporal cortex that is responsible for facial recognition.

Even though this phenomenon is real, it does not excuse the comments that came after I correct people about my name or say I don’t have any sisters, let alone a twin. When people try to convince me that in fact, my best friend and I do look alike, is why I have a problem.

Justification of something that is clearly a racial micro-aggression is something we all need to come away from. Instead of saying something to support what was clearly insulting, people should apologize and admit to their mistake. I know that if people apologized to me, that would make me feel a bit less insulted than when they try to convince me that they know who I am better than I do.

The other race effect applies to the treatment of other people of a certain race as well, not just recognition and comments encompassing this.

If the brain does not process the faces of a certain race of people at a young age, the brain is unable to give that race a certain individual identity. Therefore, the person starts unwittingly categorizing one specific race, which can possibly affect how the person treats people from this race.

This attitude is a racial micro-aggression, and the best way to combat this is to address it early on and provide children with a diverse atmosphere.

It is upsetting that there is so little awareness regarding these micro-aggressions. Some fully grown adults made comments to not only me but my parents about how my best friend and I look like twins, not even realizing just how racist and ignorant they sounded.

If we raise awareness about racial micro-aggressions, it can prevent a lot of negative effects—something like the other race effect can determine how a person treats an entire other race. In this day and age, when police brutality due to profiling is such a pertinent issue, calling attention to this seemingly insignificant micro-aggression may create a more positive environment today and in the future.

Being aware of what you say is also incredibly important and can change how other people are treated as well. For example, thinking before saying something like “Are you sure you guys aren’t related?” or something as aggressive as “No, that’s not who you are” and realizing that statements like that are insulting would be an improvement from what I have experienced.

The other race effect will hopefully only be something we read about in textbooks, not something people have to face every day. We should all be able to look toward the future to see a world where people are much more aware of racial micro-aggressions and do whatever is possible to eliminate them altogether.

Anika Veeraraghav is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at anika.veeraraghav@uconn.edu.

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