The main focus of the research paper
The research paper by David Mellor on “Contemporary Racism in Australia: The Experiences of Aborigines” mainly focuses on underlying racism in Australia. Precisely, the paper gives the results of a study aimed at investigating the range of racism reported by aboriginal Australians, (Mellor, 2010, p. 474). Aborigines (or the indigenous Australians as they are usually called) are the original inhabitants of the continent of Australia. They are among the minority groups in Australia and comprise of around 2.5 of the Australian population (Berg, 2002, p. 56). According to the researcher, there is significant level of prejudice towards Aborigines imbued in White Australians. The researcher believes that this is perpetuated by a political perception and social psychologists’ view that contemporary racism is more subtle in nature than it had been in previous times. Thus, the researcher focuses on investigating the experiences of racism reported by 34 indigenous Australians during semi-structured interview. The findings of the study indicated that racism is experienced commonly and frequently by the respondents.
The methodology adopted
During collection of data for the current study, Mellor adopted the semi-structured interview technique, (Mellor, 2010, p. 475). This method of data collection is used to collect qualitative data since it allows a respondent time and scope to give their opinions regarding a particular subject (Alston & Bowles, 2003, p. 116). Thus, it helps in understanding a respondent’s point of view, rather than making general conclusions about behavior. This technique uses open-ended questions, some of which are suggested by the researcher while others arise naturally during the interview. As such, people are able to talk about a given subject in detail and in depth. In addition, the interviewer is able to create positive rapport with the interviewee (Marlow, 2010, p. 164).
Reasons for the choice of qualitative semi-structured interview technique
The semi-structured interview method was the most efficient for the interviewer since the primary data for the study was derived from narratives, (Mellor, 2010, p. 475). This method was the most efficient due to its simplicity, efficiency and it provided a practical way of assessing and obtaining data about feelings and emotions of the respondents in regard to the topic of study. Further, this method gave an opportunity for the respondents to describe their experiences of what they felt constituted racism, to quantify their statements and to give elaboration to their statements as Mellor suggested. As such, the method allowed the participants to speak freely about racism issues and thus, did not constrain their responses through the need to answer or ask predetermined questions. Finally, through this method, it was easier for the interviewer to record interviews through audio tapes.
The conclusion drawn by the researcher
In the conclusion, the researcher supports the findings of his study and opposes political perceptions and some social psychologists’ view that racism in Australia is largely subtle in the present times in Australia, (Mellor, 2010, p. 487). Rather, the researcher argues that much of the racism experienced is overt and old fashioned. He argues that perpetration of such behavior is politically incorrect and against current social norms. The researcher argues that there is need for social psychologists to learn a different perspective of racism from that of a dominant group, other than categorizing it as blatant or subtle. This will help in gaining awareness of the range of racism that those individuals from indigenous groups experience. In the view of the researcher, psychologists should re-examine the extent to which their work and training facilitates racism experienced by indigenous individuals in Australia. Therefore, the researcher suggests that social psychologists to focus their studies in the victims and incorporate the knowledge in their analysis of racism
The criticism that Mellor makes of earlier research on racism
According to Mellor, earlier research on racism has mainly focused on the perpetrators of racism and on the contemporary and old-fashioned racism, (Mellor, 2010, p. 474). Good examples are the series of studies conducted by Pedersen and Walker and Pedersen, Griffiths, Cantos, Bishop, and Walker, which mainly focused on old-fashioned and modern prejudice. Mellor notes that the earlier studies on racism have suggested that contemporary racism is more subtle in nature than it had been in previous times. In addition Mellor notes that the studies mainly collect data from the perpetrators rather than the victims. As such, Mellor argues that these studies are likely to condone and to contribute to everyday racism that is experienced by Aborigines. Therefore, Mellor proposes that researchers should adopt a different perspective other than to take the view of the dominant group in the society and hence gain knowledge regarding the range of racism that aborigines experience on daily basis. This explains the fact that Mellor chose to focus on how racism is experienced by indigenous Australians, (Mellor, 2010, p. 475).
Alternative research methodology that could be used
An alternative research methodology to the semi-structured interview approach that could be adopted in this research is non-direct interview method. This process involves direct probes (such as “how does that affect you?”), with an aim to determine the linkages between key perceptual elements across the range of attributes, consequences and values” (Jarratt, 1996, p. 10). The process adopted in this methodology encourages the respondent to think critically about the subject of interview. The interviewer selects an environment that is non-threatening and encourages the participant to give elaboration of the answers he/she gives. Further, the interviewer gives the participant an impression that there is no right or wrong answers. The interviewer encourages the respondent to visualize certain specific experiences, describe the situation and explain their feelings about the situation. Each experience by the respondent is exhaustively with the aim of understanding the underlying perceptions and behavior. According to Jarratt (1996, p. 10), this technique can also be combined with the semi-structured interview technique.
Why the non-direct interview method could be appropriate.
As noted earlier, the non-direct interview method allows the researcher to gain a deeper and comprehensive understanding of issues, (Jarratt, 1996, p. 10). Further, this approach facilitates the respondent to be more committed to the issues being discussed. The non-direct interview technique could also be appropriate for this study since increases the understanding of the area of investigation by the respondent from an ‘action’ perspective. In other words, the respondents will be able to give their responses from a perspective of total experience, rather than give responses to direct questions derived from a semi-structured protocol that may reflect only part of a participant’s total experience.
Alston, M. & Bowles, W., Research for social workers: an introduction to methods, New York:
Berg, R. V. D., Nyoongar people of Australia: perspectives on racism and multiculturalism,
Boston: BRILL 2002 Print
Jarratt, D. G., A comparison of two alternative interviewing techniques used within an integrated
research design: a case study in outshopping using semi-structured and non-directed interviewing techniques, Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 14 (6), 1996, pp.6 – 15 Print
Marlow, C. R., Research Methods for Generalist Social Work, London: Cengage Learning, 2010
Mellor, D., Contemporary Racism in Australia: The Experiences of Aborigines, “Personality and
Social Psychology Bulletin” Sage, 2010