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  • Writer's pictureSaasy Sistah

Subliminal Messages

Subliminal (adjective): Existing or operating below the threshold of consciousness; being or employing stimuli insufficiently intense to produce a discrete sensation but often being or designed to be intense enough to influence the mental processes or the behavior of the individual. –

Researchers from the University of Arizona found that the brain processes visual and audio information and assigns meaning to it, even when you’re not consciously perceiving it. Study researcher Mary Peterson, Director of the Cognitive Science Program at the university, said in a statement, “… in fact the brain is deciding what you’re going to perceive, and it’s processing all of the information and then it’s determining what the best interpretation is.” Peterson went on to say that brains are “always sifting through a variety of possibilities and finding the best interpretation for what’s out there. And the best interpretation may vary with the situation.”-Huffington Post

I came across an image of a homework page for children that got me thinking about this topic of subliminal messages and how it affects every aspect of our lives. There is no age or gender limitation on how subliminal messages can affect our perception of people. While I can’t confirm the authenticity of this image, I believe my point is still valid.

When you look at the picture below, what are your first thoughts?

On first look, you may not notice anything wrong with this worksheet. I have known a lot of people that say they don’t “see” color and that is why this image is normal to them. Others would say that this image is being gender and racially inclusive.

To the people in the first group, I would call you out on what I consider an ignorant statement. Everyone no matter who you are “sees” color, there is no shame in that. We are all beautifully unique.

The second group I would ask to look deeper beyond just your visual interpretation. That brings us back to the topic of subliminal messages.

Are You Woke?

Woke (adjective): Being Woke means being aware-Knowing what’s going on in the community. Urban

If you are woke to racial and gender issues you would notice the subliminal message in this photo.

The fair skinned silhouettes are associated with the words ‘happy’ and ‘proud’. However, the darker skinned silhouettes are associated with the words ‘sad’ and ‘angry’.

If, as Peterson found, our brain is “processing all of the information and then determining what the best interpretation” is, how do you think your brain would classify people of color?

This issue of associating people of color with negative words and or images is nothing new. All you need to do is turn on the news and you are inundated with negative commentary and images depicting people of color.

The Problem:

According to how our brain processes the information it would be a natural response to associate people of color with the messages that we have received subliminally. If our brain is constantly sifting through possibilities and finding the best interpretation, what is being put “out there” by mainstream media is not anything positive or good. For example, when some people see a black man wearing a hoodie the first thing that comes to mind is “thug.” However, when a white man wears a hoodie he is just being casual, or in this ecosystem, a developer. The first being an extremely negative and threatening label; the latter being jovial and non-threating labels.

The Reality:

The unfortunate reality is that we live in a society that constantly regurgitates these negative subliminal lies about people of color. Due to the negative effects, these subliminal messages produce, this, in turn, creates a hostile society fighting against one another. People of color who aspire to positions of leadership are required to go above and beyond to prove themselves. People of color need to work twice as hard to get half the rewards.

The solution?

The disparity is sickening and it will not get better until we work together to change the narrative. Just because my reality is different than yours does not mean the problem doesn’t exist. I know there is no easy fix for all the damage that has been done over the years, however, we need to start somewhere

The time is now. If you want to see change, you have to practice and demonstrate the change you want to see in others.

  1. Be open

  2. Be humble

  3. Be courageous

  4. Be generous

  5. Be loving

That list could go on and on but I think you get the point.

Change will happen, how that change happens depends largely on those who are part of the change movement. So try and put yourself in “their” shoes; how would you react, how would you feel if you were faced with this intense injustice your whole life?

The Challenge:

I challenge you to think twice when negative thoughts about people of color pop into your head. Ask yourself, “Why did I think that?” Do I know enough about this person to assume that? Where did I learn this, and how can I reverse this negative course?

“I have decided to stick with love, hate is too great of a burden to bear.” –Martin Luther King Jr.

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