Spring 2018

Reclaiming Representations & Interrupting the Cycle of Bias Against Native Americans

Arianne E. Eason, Laura M. Brady, and Stephanie A. Fryberg
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The most widely accessible ideas and representations of Native Americans are largely negative, antiquated, and limiting. In this essay, we examine how the prevalence of such representations and a comparative lack of positive contemporary representations foster a cycle of bias that perpetuates disparities among Native Americans and other populations. By focusing on three institutions – the legal system, the media, and education – we illustrate how the same process that creates disparate outcomes can be leveraged to promote positive contemporary ideas and representations of Native Americans, thereby creating more equitable outcomes. We also highlight the actions some contemporary Native Americans have taken to reclaim their Native American identity and create accurate ideas and representations of who Native Americans are and what they can become. These actions provide a blueprint for leveraging cultural change to interrupt the cycle of bias and to reduce the disparities Native Americans face in society.

ARIANNE E. EASON is a Ph.D. candidate in Psychology at the University of Washington. Her interests lie at the intersection of social and developmental psychology, specifically how children and adults process environmental information related to race and interracial interactions. Her research has been published in Developmental Psychology, Current Directions in Psychological Science, and Infancy.

LAURA M. BRADY is a Research Associate in the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington. She has published in such journals as Current Opinion in Psychology, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

STEPHANIE A. FRYBERG is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Washington. Her work on representations of Native Americans has appeared in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Social Issues, Basic and Applied Social Psychology, Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, and Journal of Applied Social Psychology, among other publications.