After a recent performance of In The Cypher I was speaking to a friend about how to create solutions to structural racism in our great country. She mentioned the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment test, a questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. How, you may ask yourself does a test whose main intention is to make inferences regarding job placement relate to structural racism? Well, this conversation with my friend occurred after a particularly interesting yet intense post show talk-back, where once again 75% of our audience remained to continue a discussion inspired by the performance. Although everyone was wonderfully respectful of other people’s opinions, there was a lot of passionate disagreement on several matters. Looking back, I believe one of the reasons for that was because of a general lack of agreement about the existence of structural racism in this country and what it is exactly. An interesting thing that my friend related to me about the Myers-Briggs test is that the US population’s average score is about 50/50 on three out of four continuums (extravert-introvert, judging-perceiving, thinking-feeling), but they are 75/25 on the sensing-intuitive continuum. Sensing pertains to seeing the trees while Intuitive concerns seeing the forest. Therefore most Americans (75%) sense the trees rather than Intuit the forest. My friend had a theory about this imbalance, which I found particularly compelling. She surmised, because most people lean more towards S (seeing) than N (intuitive) in the Myers-Briggs, this indicates that they are more comfortable or more easily able to see the components of a system than to see the whole system – meaning it’s difficult for as many as 3 in 4 Americans to conceptualize institutionalized racism. Moreover, it’s their natural tendency, in terms of how they process information, to focus on individual acts of racism instead of seeing how those fit into a bigger system. The implications could be to look at methods in academia or in the workplace for helping S’s (those more inclined to seeing the trees) see the bigger picture. The Myers-Briggs does give us some leeway by asserting, “Because we have an order of preference for the mental muscles, we tend to use the preferred muscles much more frequently than the lesser preferred ones. As with physical muscles, the mental muscles can grow in strength with use. As we become more practiced with certain mental muscles, we tend to use them even more and eventually they may become dominant in our personality.” Therefore, psychological preferences may be changed through learning new practices. Once learned, people can then apply that understanding to conceptualizing systematic/institutionalized racism in order to help all the S’s see the system at work. The other option is to perhaps leverage people’s natural strengths. By finding ways for those people who have a natural inclination to see the trees focus on efforts that address inter-personal relationships and individual acts of racism, while the N’s (those more inclined to seeing the forest) focus all of their efforts to addressing institutionalized racism, everyone is working where his/her natural strength lies. The point to all of this is, here we clearly have an existing model for how people process data and make decisions (the Myers-Briggs ‘S-N continuum), and we can apply that to how we have conversations about race and how we try to address the concept of systematic racism. If in fact the majority of our audience is likely to have a naturally harder time seeing the systems than the individual acts, they may need to be led through all the data first by going through all the little individual acts of racism in order to see how those start adding up to a system. It’s not that they’re not able to see big picture ever, they just don’t go there automatically because that’s just simply how their brain works, They can’t just jump into seeing that without being led on a journey to that place.