Last week we had our midterm exam so the term diversity, segregation, prejudice and idea of the Social Contact Theory are very fresh in my head, as it should be being a social work major. This weekend I found a great example of diversity and segregation within a group of high school athletes. This experience proved to me that diversity, segregation and prejudice is everywhere and the Social Contact Theory is always in effect, at any age.
On Sunday, February 28, 2010, a few friends and I volunteered to work as student athletic trainers for a basketball tournament held in Kennedy Center at Augsburg College. This event is called the Augsburg College Church Youth Basketball Tournament. The tournament has been occurring for the past nineteen years and is increasingly growing. While working the tournament I observed the diverse groups of teams and noticed that they were all segregated by the church they attend; therefore they only associated themselves with others from their church. As the tournament went on, I noticed more and more of the high school kids breaking out of their comfort zone and socializing with other players and teams. This transition took at least two to three hours, but in the end I was amazed that even high schoolers experience diversity and segregation, though they may not realize it. It also amazed me that so many people with different identities and backgrounds came together because of a single commonality, but wouldn’t associate with outer groups. This is when I noticed the Social Contact Theory was in effect.
The Social Contact Theory works to eliminate prejudice in a large diverse group, such as the one I observed. Though the first step to eliminating prejudice is to be aware of your own prejudice, the process of the Social Contact Theory is still undergoing. According to our PowerPoint, prejudice can be reduced in five ways: with equal status, pursuing a common goal, see “others” common humanity, contact must be sanctioned in an appropriate institution and creating potential friendships (Allport, 1954). Knowing these five conditions of eliminating prejudice through the Social Contact Theory gave me something to compare my experience to. When observing the basketball players at Augsburg College Church Youth Basketball Tournament, I saw that all of the conditions were met. I can assume that all of the athletes were of equal status, at least during their time in the tournament, because all were dressed alike (student athletes) and all were the same age group creating a greater sense of unity. Also all of these student athletes were striving for a common goal, winning the tournament and sharing the love of game. As I said earlier, this tournament has been reoccurring for the past nineteen years, this means that there is a long enough time to see “others” common humanity. The institution where the tournament took place was appropriate because all of the teams could be observed and with time, prejudice and segregation began to decrease. Finally, by the end of the tournament I could see that friendships were being created. After completing the Augsburg College Church Youth Basketball Tournament, I have realized that my volunteer work was worth the experience and that not only is diversity, segregation and prejudice everywhere, but the Social Contact Theory is always in effect.
Allport, G. W. (1954). The Nature of Prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Pettigrew, T. F. (1998). Intergroup contact theory. Annual Review of Pstchology, (49), 65-86.
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