Turban Myths

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  • Turban Myths THE OPPORTUNITY AND CHALLENGES FOR REFRAMING A CULTURAL SYMBOL FOR POST-9/11 AMERICA

    STANFORD PEACE INNOVATION LAB

    SEPTEMBER 9, 2013, STANFORD CALIFORNIA

  • 01 Introduction

    Introduction

    In the summer of 2013, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) commissioned the Stanford Peace Innovation Lab a research group based at Stanford University to conduct a study on American perception of the Sikh American community, and to develop preliminary recommendations for an advocacy and engagement program. The impetus for the project was growing concern in the Sikh American community following the 2012 Oak Creek shootings in Wisconsin. The Stanford team in collaboration with SocialxDesign, a consumer engagement consulting firm with offices in Silicon Valley and Washington DC conducted a multi-threaded research project which enabled the team to formulate recommendations presented in a public forum on September 9 on the Stanford campus. What follows is a summary of the scope of the project, its key findings, and recommended strategies for meeting a number of challenges facing the Sikh American community in post-9/11 America.

    The project is the first known multi-threaded research of its kind, mining perception of American Sikhs and their challenges from numerous sources:

    The Stanford team conducted a multi-threaded research project, which enabled the team to formulate recommendations presented in a public forum on September 9 on the Stanford campus

  • 02 Scope

    Scope

    The project is the first known multi-threaded research of its kind, mining perception of American Sikhs and their challenges from numerous sources:

    Two independently managed consumer survey projects (Google Consumer Surveys and Politix) A study of Internet conversation regarding Sikh Americans A review of news accounts of hate crimes against Sikh Americans Qualitative interviews with leaders in the Sikh American community and their peers in other ethnic and faith-based communities A review of the most recent academic literature in neuroscience, psychology, sociology, and criminology as it relates to Sikh and Muslim Americans around bias, stereotypes, hate crimes, profiling, shooter bias and media portrayals (film, television and video games).

    The research was conducted from July 1st through the first week of September, though one of the survey projects (conducted by Politix) continues to draw respondents.

    The research was

    conducted from

    July 1st through

    the first week of

    September,

    though one of the

    survey projects

    (conducted by

    Politix) continues

    to draw

    respondents.

  • 03 Methodology

    Methodology

    Surveys: The Google Consumer Survey questions yielded roughly 1,500 responses each. The Politix surveys conducted in two separate polls yielded close to 700 and 250 responses respectively.

    Qualitative: We interviewed close to 20 leaders in the Sikh community and other ethnic and faith-based communities as well as leaders in conflict engagement and resolution.

    Literature review and online conversation: We surveyed the most recent academic literature (more than 60 articles) on Sikh and Muslim Americans, neuroscience and behavioral psychology, and news accounts of hate crimes against Sikh- and Muslim-Americans, Internet conversations on popular online community sites, and entertainment (games and film).

  • 04 Summary Findings

    Summary Findings

    The top-level findings from the research are as follows:

    According to the first survey project, Americans tend to associate turbans with Osama bin Laden more so than with named Muslim and Sikh alternatives and more than with no one in particular. (Google Consumer Surveys)

    49% of Americans believe Sikh is a sect of Islam (it is an independent religion). (Google Consumer Surveys)

    70% cannot identify a Sikh man in a picture as a Sikh. (Google Consumer Surveys).

    79% cannot identify India as the geographic origin of Sikhism. (Google Consumer Surveys).

    Anti-turban bias even among people with a greater knowledge of Sikhs. According to a second survey project conducted by a news aggregator whose readers in a recent survey have a greater knowledge of Sikhs -- 20% of respondents say that if they encounter a stranger wearing a turban they are likely to become angry or apprehensive. (Politix Surveys).

    Bias is unconscious, charged by emotion, and reinforced by images. The literature on bias suggests that the turban

    According to respondents in the qualitative research both Sikh and non-Sikh there are significant gaps in Sikh integration into American life relative to peer communities.

  • 05 Summary Findings

    may be a particularly challenging cultural and religious symbol in post-9/11 America.

    A sizable gap in the integration of Sikhs into the mainstream of American life: According to respondents in the qualitative research both Sikh and non-Sikh there are significant gaps in Sikh integration into American life relative to peer communities. The consensus is that this gap might have the effect of reinforcing bias.

    A sizable gap in institutional capacity: Respondents also agree that Sikhs are at an early stage of institutional maturity, lacking in resources and capacity for responding to crises and for creating sustainable, forward-looking programs that benefit Sikhs and other communities. Sikh leaders recognize the progress made over the past decade, but they also recognize where the Sikh community stands relative to its peers.

  • 06 Analysis

    Analysis

    The turban as the object of enmity. Beyond the headlines, what was noteworthy to the team from the survey research was evidence of bias against the turban regardless of the sophistication of the sample group. As noted, according to Google Consumer Surveys whose respondents could not identify Sikhs, their religion, or geographical origin, the turban was associated with figures who have played the role of antagonist in news narratives over the past few decades. According the Politix survey which drew from an audience with greater knowledge of Sikhs at least one in five people said that if were to encounter a stranger wearing a turban they are likely to become angry or apprehensive. The results of the two survey projects suggest that the turban itself has become an object of enmity, perhaps affecting the perception of its wearers whoever they happen to be.

    The turban was associated with figures who have played the role of antagonist in news narratives over the past few decades.

  • 07 Analysis

    Google Consumer Survey Results This man is most likely a.

  • 08 Analysis

  • 09 Analysis

  • 10 Analysis

    The Person you would associate with a turban and beard is:

  • 11 Analysis

  • 12 Analysis

    You most associate a turban and beard with someone who is

  • 13 Analysis

  • 14 Analysis

    Which of the following is NOT a sect of Islam?

  • 15 Analysis

  • 16 Analysis

    DO YOU KNOW? Sikhism is originated in or near

  • 17 Analysis

  • 18 Analysis

    Politix Survey Results

    The implications of this phenomenon are manifold. But from the perspective of the research team, the immediate upshot was the opportunity to address the turban misassociation problem from the perspective of behavior design. (See recommendations). Because of its strong visual identity, and because of the strong emotion it invokes among so many Americans, the turban can be analyzed in the context of a behavioral loop. Thus the turban can be seen as a viable candidate for a campaign that is as much about behavioral change as it is about advocacy. In fact, the change the dynamics between Sikhs and non-Sikhs in America, a campaign that does not incorporate behavior design might be insufficient.

    The science of bias and hate. As noted, the literature review on bias and hate crime drawing from more than 60 journal articles and in-depth reports from neuroscience and behavioral sciences

  • 19 Analysis

    shows an emerging consensus that bias is largely unconscious, charged by emotion, and reinforced by images.

    Stanley, Phelps & Banaji (2008) state:

    Evidence that human preferences, beliefs, and behavior are influenced by sources that are outside the reach of conscious awareness, control, intention, and self- reflection is incontrovertible. Recent advances in neuoscience have enabled researchers to investigate the neural basis of these implicit attitudes, particularly attitudes involving social groups.

    Unkelbach & Denison (2008) used a shooter bias paradigm to assess participants aggressive tendencies toward targets wearing a turban or hijab. As predicted, this experiment demonstrated a shooter bias for targets wearing a turban or a hijab and the results were comparable regardless of gender target confirming a negative stereotype associated with Islamic appearance. The evidence further supported the prediction that the shooter bias against Muslims was the behavioral manifestation of acquired negative stereotypes towards this group. This study and others also lend weight to the hypothesis that the turban misassociation problem needs to be approached from a behavioral perspective.

  • 20 Analysis

    The Turban Effect

    Whether theyre holding a steel coffee mug or a gun, people are just more likely to shoot at someone who is wearing a turban, says a