Baseball and belonging: Ingroup association can be a cognitive choice.

I recently blogged about white allies in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. I wanted to follow up with an important addendum.

This movement isn’t about choosing sides. Yes, I’m white, making the ingroup into which I was born, white Americans.  But that’s not the only ingroup with which I identify.

I’m white.

I’m a scientist.

I’m a dog owner.

I’m a Mozart fan.

I’m a woman.

I’m wearing a blue shirt.

While our brains are adapted to categorize (and we do so very well) the way in which we categorize others is flexible. In fact, ingroup associations can be formed over the most arbitrary circumstances (sports anyone?) quite rapidly, and forcefully. Anyone who has attended a Red Sox game in Yankee Stadium can attest to this. Race melts away. All you need to see is a blue baseball cap and in New York, you’re family.

We may not be able to prevent our brains from categorizing, but we can make the cognitive decision on what criteria we base these categories. So while I can’t change the color of my skin to associate with my black brothers and sisters in this fight, that doesn’t mean I won’t be investing energy towards helping my fellow scientists, and women, and classical music fans…..who also happen to be black.

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