A contemplation on the role of in-group – out-group bias

I found the class exercise of attempting to find shelter within a Geneseo campus where all of the buildings were locked to be a surprisingly moving experience that forced the boundaries of my imagination. At the time of the exercise my initial reaction towards the outwardly hostile environment of the locked campus  was clouded by irrational fear. I kept looking at all of the imagined locked windows and doors and this made me feel as if a thousand sets of eyes were looking at me. Therefore I tried to find the most secluded area possible  where the imagined eyes could not follow me. After settling on a large outcropping of bushes I started to reflect on why this concept of being locked out bothered me so much. I decided to think about other occasions during my time at Geneseo that had invoked a similar feeling.

My mind kept returning to two distinctly different scenarios where I had felt that same hostile feeling. The first scenario occurred early on in my freshman year when I still hadn’t made that many friends. Despite my friendless situation I decided to adventure out during the weekend to try to meet people, however, at every house that I walked up to I was greeted with a cold mannered rebuttal. The second scenario that came to my mind is in relation to a late night study session in Frasier library. While I was studying for a final exam the janitorial staff notified me that I needed to leave the building immediately which I fully complied to. After leaving Frasier library I was forced to head back to my apartment to finish studying since the entire campus was on lock down.

During both of these conflict situations I found myself feeling ostracized by my peers on one hand and by my school on the other. These events led me to contemplate the following question: Does in-group – Out-group bias play a prominent role in a society/group’s decision-making ability?

In reference to my own two experiences I do believe that an in-group – out-group bias played a significant role in the decision-making ability of either group. In the first scenario, I found out later on that all of the houses that I had tried to enter were either the houses of local fraternities, or collegiate sports teams. Since I belonged to none of these organizations I was not allowed to enter their internal world. In the second scenario  a bias also existed since I did not have the proper clearance to study in the college buildings after a certain time frame. If for instance, I had been apart of the Edgar Fellows Program then I would have had the ability to access the twenty-four hour study areas that are reserved for honor students.

If this line of thinking is applied to our discussion on the Housing Crisis I am confident that there are several correlations that could be drawn. For instance, the stark difference between the emergency response initiative taken by both federal and private institutions following Super Storm Sandy were faster and more efficient than the initiatives taken for Hurricane Katrina. Instead of giving the job of rebuilding the affected communities to a private corporation (what happened in New Orleans), the federal government provided direct financial support to repair the devastated New Jersey coast line. This difference in treatment can/is the result of several external factors which increase the difficulty for cities such as New Orleans to bounce back in an expedient manner. Even if you consider the difference in social vulnerability due to wealth inequality and the larger scale of destruction brought on by Hurricane Katrina, it is still impossible to ignore the factor of race.

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