New Review of 'Our Racist Heart' in a Leading Academic JournalApril 2014
THE TRAGIC DEATH OF TRAYVON MARTIN in 2012 and the subsequent trial and acquittal of George Zimmerman on charges stemming from Martin's death has once again ignited discussion of race and racial prejudice in America. Among the issues raised is the pervasive presence of implicit biases that played out not only in the decisions of Zimmerman in confronting Martin, but in the public response to the incident and its aftermath. So a book titled Our Racist Heart? An Exploration of Unconscious Prejudice in Everyday Life published this year by Geoffrey Beattie appears very timely and potentially useful in examining current research and theory concerning racial prejudice. Beattie is Professor of Psychology at Edge Hill University and a Fellow of the British Psychological Society. In addition to his work on the role of unconscious bias as described in this book, he has published extensively in the area of nonverbal communication and in the study of unconscious factors underlying decisions affecting environmental sustainability.
The book consists of 17 chapters organized in three parts, as well as two appendices. Part I includes five chapters that provide an overview of prejudice from a personal and professional point of view. With respect to the personal point of view, it should be noted that Beattie has incorporated extended narratives of his personal experiences with prejudice throughout the book. These involve experiences as a boy growing up in a working-class Protestant area of Belfast who encounters bias as a student admitted to an elite academy. They also involve experiences and observations as a student and faculty member at British universities. This narrative is very interesting and compelling, although unusual in academic publications......
In summary, Our Racist Heart? is an effort to shed some new light on a timely and always important issue. Beattie contributes a valuable update of Allport's work, especially exploring the importance of unconscious factors in the development and expression of prejudice....what is impressive is the elegant way that Beattie has incorporated his autobiographical account of experienced prejudice with knowledgeable commentary in terms of modern views of prejudice.