Our Racist Heart? An Exploration of Unconscious Prejudice in Everyday Life

2013 Routledge: London

'Few people today would admit to being a racist, or to making assumptions about individuals based on their skin colour, or on their gender or social class. In this book, leading psychologist Geoffrey Beattie asks if prejudice, more subtle than before, is still a major part of our everyday lives.

Beattie suggests that implicit biases based around race are not just found in small sections of our society, but that they also exist in the psyches of even the most liberal, educated and fair-minded of us. More importantly, the book outlines how these ‘hidden’ attitudes and prejudices can be revealed and measured, and how they in turn predict behaviours in a number of important social situations.

Our Racist Heart? takes a fresh look at our racial attitudes, using new technology and experimental approaches to show how unconscious biases influence our everyday actions and thinking. These groundbreaking results are brought to life using the author’s own experiences of class and religious prejudice in Northern Ireland, and are also discussed in relation to the history of race, racism and social psychological theory.

The book will be of great interest to students of psychology, sociology, and cultural studies, as well as those who work in human resources and to all those who have experienced prejudice in their daily lives.' (from the cover)

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Reviews

‘Geoffrey Beattie has written a remarkable book.  He tells the story of his early life in Belfast, as he presents his new research into prejudice’s unconscious aspects.  This combination of the autobiographical and the academic results in a work that is always fascinating, deeply felt and beautifully written.’ 
Michael Billig, Professor of Social Sciences, Loughborough University

 ‘An up-to-date, revealing, provocative and (in several places) personal book – it is timely, important and elegantly stated.  The writing is appealing, clear, direct, sometimes poetic, definitely approachable, and hard to put down.’ 
David McNeill, Department of Psychology, University of Chicago

 ‘A convincing account of the importance of psychological research in understanding a phenomenon which has very real, and often devastating effects on the life chances of people in stigmatised social groups.’ 
Eona Bell in the LSE Review of Books, 2013

 ‘Using his own personal life experience adds a different dimension to this book – it feels like you are being taken on a journey of self-discovery that makes you question yourself more than you perhaps have in the past.’ 
Patrick Johnson, Head of Equality and Diversity, University of Manchester

  'In this unique book, author Geoffrey Beattie juxtaposes stories of his youth in Northern Ireland, during which he experienced and observed prejudice on the basis of social class and religion, with descriptions of a sampling of theory and research relevant to implicit prejudice. In the author’s words, the book explores “what kinds of prejudices and biases might be operating in everyday life in contemporary British society, revolving around race and ethnicity, especially in the broad area of employment” (p. 1), though consistent with the subtitle of the book, the primary focus of the academic analysis is on implicit prejudice. Written in a manner suitable for a broad non-specialist audience, it appears to be directed, at least in part, toward those concerned with the lack of diversity in the university system in the United Kingdom in particular...Beattie’s style of writing about prejudice is “populated” (Billing, 2011); he writes about real people in real situations in his personal reflections on prejudice. His story of the dynamics of the university boardroom is eloquently written and likely to resonate with readers who have sat in such rooms and experienced the chill in the air, and his accounts of class and religious conflict and violence in Northern Ireland powerfully illustrate the intersection between the personal and the political. He moves with ease between perspectives, personal and academic, psychodynamic and social-cognitive.......Our Racist Heart has one unique and valuable strength to recommend it: The author is a strong story-teller. Therefore, it can be enjoyed as an academic narrative, a description of a journey, taken by the author, exploring his own experiences of prejudice juxtaposed with reflections on a sampling of relevant academic work. In this respect, it offers some novel musings and poignant stories about problems of enduring importance.'
Lynne M. Jackson, The University of Western Ontario in the journal 'Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy', Vol. 14, No. 1, 2014, pp. 434--436