I am leary when I enter the great debate forum as I lack the written and english skills a lot of you have here.
My thoughts are that one of the most basic instincts of any life form I can think of is to learn to recognize danger. Most animals are pretty good at assesing the level of danger by reading body language. They are usually cautious until they feel the situation is safe.
For whatever reasons, bad publicity, stereo typing, bad experiences etc. a lot of whites are apprehensive of blacks to varying degrees. In most cases I think it is very minor. I don't think whites are totaly to blame for this. In my neighborhood we have about 10% blacks. 95% of them are wonderful people and great neighbors. But the 5% that isn't becomes very visible. They reinforce that apprehensive instinct that all of us have and perpetuate the stereotyping.
I would like to see both the black and white communities address this issue from this standpoint. I think by recognizing how are basic instincts work it might take some of the resentments out of the equation. I realize it would be just another long educational public information type program but I do beilieve it is an angle worth pursuing.
One of the biggest problems to that approach is that there is no such thing as “the Black community” or “the White community”. That might work if we were talking about a small village that was pretty much isolated from the outside world, but there are 300,000,000 of us in this country. In fact, that very concept reinforces the very separatedness you are trying to address.
I agree with you and I recognised that before I posted. I don’t know what the solution is as we are trying to stop approaching things from a black and white standpoint. Maybe we haven’t quite reached a level yet where can do this on all issues. Maybe the issues need to be desegregated one at a time.
You write this like it’s some great mystery that our best social scientists are still exploring, and that it might just be that black people have been mean to a lot of white people. In fact, it’s no mystery at all why this belief is prevalent. It’s three centuries of carefully designed white supremacist propaganda and social engineering, and all of its costs and consequences.
In reality, a white person is far likelier to be harmed by another white person than a black person. Crime tends to be an in-group phenomenon, especially violent crime. (White) Fear of black people is a completely irrational prejudice.
If your contention is that a lot of racial bias isn’t operating at a conscious level, you’re absolutely right. Most white people do not consciously hold ideas about black dangerousness or inferiority (though quite a lot still do).
But you’re wrong to think this isn’t a widely discussed fact. “Implicit bias”–the term for this–is pretty common in these discussions at all levels.
I believe the issue with your premise is you are relating two practically mutually exclusive phenomenon: Instinct and racism. Instinct is naturally ingrained behaviors and thought patterns all humans are born with to varying degrees. Racism is a learned behavior or thought process.
I agree that it is learned but are we predisposed to more readily accept prejudices that might be perceived to be a threat. If this is the case it takes very little to stimulate these feelings or to reinforce them and a lot to turn them off.
I’ll accept for a moment that what you’re talking about is “natural”.
Our “natural instincts” come to us through hundred of million of years of evolution. But our environments are nowhere like they were hundreds of millions of years ago. We had stressors back then that we don’t now, and vice versa. Our bodies and minds come with a lot of accessories that are pretty much useless now. I think racism is one.
Individuals have a responsible to keep their “instincts” in check. For instance, we all know that we have a biological imperative to seek out sweet, fatty foods. We all know that giving into this urge is unhealthy given our current milieu. So we have a responsibility to ourselves to be more self-aware. We should be using our cerebrums, not our cerebellums, when planning menus.
I’d say that 5% of white people I’ve encountered are worthless douchebags. And they look very similar to the 95% who are the salt of the earth. But I still work and coexist with white people just fine. When I see a strange white guy approach me, my mind doesn’t go to the memory of that one white guy who pushed me off the road with the Confederate flag in his back windshield or the white guy who stole from money from me at work, or the white guys through the years who have seriously worked my nerves. Because I have many positive images of white guys in my memory bank to offset the negative ones. If the ratio of good-to-bad black people is truly 95-to-5, then you and other white people shouldn’t have any difficulty confronting negative thoughts either. If you do have difficulty, I’m gonna guess it has something to do with the kind of exposure you have with folks different from you.
Just like modern-day humans have to resist the urge to pig out on sweets and fats, they need to resist the urge to “stick with their own kind”. Maybe this mentality made sense back in the days when Mr. Neanderthal was a threat to the human race, but now it is backwards thinking that doesn’t foster a healthy social dynamic.
Not a problem for myself, I have had enough exposure in my life to enough diversity where I can tell a thug form an average guy in most cases. But I do see a lot of it and not from people I would loosely refer to as racist. More often it is from people who lack exposure. I used to work with an old blackman in my shop. He used to talk about how when he first left Louisiana he couldn’t figure out how white people could tell each other apart. As we become more familiar with one another we also become more aware of individual traits and assign them less broadly.
I don’t know if it is instinctive, but, yeah, it is a fact that people stereotype minorities in their thinking.
A friend of mine was raped. She said that she was glad it was a white man, because if it had been a black man, she would always have looked at all other black men as potential racists. She absolutely knows better than that, but the unconscious “othering” of blacks would have that effect on her, and upon many people.
(It doesn’t always work that way. I was robbed by four black youths, and, instead of seeing all black youths as potential robbers, I just single those four out as jerks.)
I don’t think it’s instinct. A few years ago I was walking past a park and noticed there was a bunch of young children of various ethnicity-black, asian, hispanic, white-all playing together without a care in the world and sitting around the edges the caregivers were all segregated by skin color.
Many people oppose the idea that racism is natural, because somehow to them it seems like it’s legitimizing racism and that it might give racism credence. In their minds, bad things must have been taught - must not be naturally ingrained.
There may be aspects to racism that are “natural” in the sense that they did not arise by conscious decisions of white people. But when we talk about white supremacy in America, we’re talking about a deliberate racial classification system invented by slaveholders and perpetuated over three centuries through intentional actions on the part of powerful whites. People who conflate the two are, at best, ignorant. Which is a good thing, because it is a condition that can be easily remedied through study.
Perhaps our societal failings towards each other could be better fixed from a personal mental health perspective; such that, each individual must be shown the value of trying to lessen their own implicit biases.
We humans are a step further up the mental ladder than all others. Where the other animals can only live as a slave to their instinct; we can self-reflect and repress our instinctual actions for long term gain.
Where all dogs would eat until they are overweight and sick; some humans can work against the shitty future they will have if they do not resist the instinctual craving for over eating and the fats/sugars of junk food. Thus, I reiterate that mental illness/racism/ect are all ways of giving in to the “junk food” of lazy generalizations and living without self-reflection. We gave in to what was good enough for our ancestors, without caring that our world has changed and our actions have become detrimental to us.
I agree with both UberArchetype when he said
and HoneyBadgerDC where he said
From these, we see in babies a natural fear of anything even modestly different.
But just as the baby instinctively learned from a few sample experiences what was safe or not, we rely too heavily on our generalizations, and we do not update them enough, nor do we acknowledge to ourselves the limits of that way of thinking. “All stoves are hot” or “Target itself is a terrible store, just because I had two bad experiences with two different employees” or “I grew up in the projects and black bullies beat me up regularly, thus all black youth are scum” or “crime is going up because that is all I hear about in the news” or etc… We naturally extrapolate beyond our range of data to our own detriment.
It is not to say that extrapolation is a bad thing; to treat every person and rock and everything else as a truly blank novel experience would get us nowhere in life. But we must acknowledge to ourselves that it is a limited tool that should be used in conjunction with others.
Personally, I think saying it is natural is a cop-out. It’s just one step away from saying it can’t be helped or that it must serve a useful purpose. There’s no evidence for either of these two positions.
All of our behaviors and impulses have biological underpinnings. Because we are biological organisms, duh. Even the things we learn are imprinted into us through our biology. But our biological underpinnings aren’t immutable, so neither are our behaviors and impulses. With self-awareness of our thoughts and feelings comes a modicum of control. Presumably most other biological species lack this ability, so it makes sense to attribute a certain helplessness to them. But humans aren’t so helpless. We are capable of rational behavior when we give ourselves permission to.
Do humans actually realize that these feelings may have originated at some primal level? Maybe they believe they have a reason for feeling this way. I know my father who was from the south outgrew his racism over a period of a couple of decades. You could see him continually get softer on the issue and eventually became outspoken against it.
Well said. I would add personally that even if this were true, something being natural or instinctual doesn’t mean it’s justifiable in a modern society. Beating someone to death because they crossed you might be instinctual just like forcibly impregnating multiple women might be. However, we obviously punish such behavior because we are not just products of our instincts and “nature”.
There are interesting theories in social science and psychology. Is racism natural? No, it’s learned, but humans appear inclined to it because of how our brains work and some common thinking patterns humans engage in. Our brains are hard wired to look for and find patterns to form categories and schemas because it helps streamline our cognitive processes. Much of our behavior appears automatic. And if certain people don’t have direct experience with say, certain ethnic group, we will still form schemas and categorize that group but it will be based on what information we have of them, i.e. media, school, Hollywood depictions, what our parents say about them.
Many facets of our society are still shockingly segregated. I live in an urban area and it baffles me how many of the locals school are nearly all African American even though the areas that feed the school is not. It’s absolutely true that “they all look alike” to out group members because of our tendency to categorize people into seemingly homogeneous groups.
The best way to avoid stereotypical beliefs or racist views is to learn about and get to know the group in question. But so much of our history and past policies has sought to define and separate people into predefined like-groups or in-groups.
So racism is not nature so much as a common consequence of how our brains seeks patterns and tries to categorize the world. This process evolved because it’s extremely useful and allows for conscious cognitive processes not be used elsewhere. However, we have to teach people to be aware of the potential consequences of this pattern so the bad ones, like racist or stereotypical views can be avoided.