What Is Racism?
Media accounts, and discussion, of
racism — especially in an era when the President of the United States has
systematically, and effectively, employed this device to enlist political
support of the most virulent bigots with voting rights — are almost universally
without intellectual, social, or historical depth.
Furious discussion as to what words or
behavior are “racist”, empty and false declarations that such behavior is “not
what we are” — these are the daily contributions of editors, politicians, and
media commentators everywhere.
A fundamental truth seems always
“Racism” is embedded in the RNA of every human, and in many,
if not all, animals. Evolution has ensured the survival of species partly due
to this fact.
Every human and or animal is born with
an instinctive wariness, distrust, fear, and perhaps loathing of any among them
who look, sound, smell, or behave “differently.”
Does that albino animal not have the
expected skin color? Kill or chase it from the group. Does that person use
unfamiliar language, have an unknown accent, wear strange clothing, have oddly
colored skin, pray to peculiar gods, smell different? Get rid of them in a
To a thoughtful layperson, this
instinct obviously served prehistoric tribal members as a means to avoid and/or
repel those who might well threaten their existence. The
strength, the virulence, of this evolutionary trait, as with others, varies
from one individual to another. But evolution, fortunately, has also developed in us
something else: a brain.
Intelligence, or, to use some current
can be used to inspect, evaluate, and check instinctive urges.
Is that person really a threat to me?
Does he also have a mother, father, children whom he loves and cares for? Does
he, like me, probably struggle to make a living? Does he, like me, want to be
treated decently and be accepted as a part of the community? If I behave
respectfully toward him wouldn’t he probably treat me that way? If I want to
live without being repressed or enslaved, doesn’t he probably feel the same?
The strength of this evolutionary
trait, too, varies from one individual to another, along with a brain function
known as “empathic”: the ability to “feel with” another.
Weak or strong, the latter are there to
The choice may be called “character.”