Cognitive dissonance is when a person feels different emotions about the same thing. The authors of The Maid Narratives encountered this when they were doing interviews of whites that had formerly had black maids. They are conflicted with the way they felt when they were younger and the way they feel now. When whites with maids were growing up they felt a sense of security from their maid. Now, they feel a sense of remorse after learning the difficult conditions that their maids sometimes worked in.
I am currently researching Florence Thompson. Thompson was the first female sheriff in the United States that had to carry out a conviction. She was from Owensboro, Kentucky, where the last public hanging took place. Rainey Bethea, the man committing the crime, was convicted of raping an elderly woman and was sentenced to hang. Thompson conferred with a priest before the hanging because of the personal, internal struggle she was having. She was faced with having to be a strong leader that her position required while still having terrible feelings about having a man’s death on her hands even though the man had already been convicted and sentenced. Ultimately she decided to have a man from out of town perform the hanging while she supervised from a distance.
When people are placed in a conflicting situations they are required to look within themselves. This reflection brings out thoroughly thought through decisions, considering the repercussions, particularly personal. This dissonance sometimes occurs well after the fact, such as the whites in The Maid Narratives. This is also beneficial because the reflection shows the next generation the flaws of the older generation’s decisions.