All people are racist… and then hopefully decreasingly so
I have just finished reading Marley K’s piece “All White People are Racist”… it’s inflammatory to say the least but that’s me speaking from a scientific perspective. None of us have met all people; we can spot trends or correlations but we can’t logically label all people as anything.
As well as this, further conflict arose from me pondering the utility of such a statement that “All white people are racist”. Can you shock someone enough to look inwardly? Unlikely. If you could every marital therapist would be screaming at their clients to just admit they need to leave their husband / wife. Shocking people into realising that they are villains doesn’t work. Especially when it’s not true
It is therapy that we need. A soiled relationship due to a past many of us are unwilling to acknowledge.
However… there might not be truth in the title “All white people are racist”, but there may be some truth in the notion that all people are racist… or atleast start off that way.
All People Are Racist
Ever seen an image of two children holding hands, often a white and a black child, with a caption below it reading “no-one is born racist”. Well this isn’t actually true.
In his book, Behave, Robert Sapolsky quotes experiments showing that the area of our brain involved in panic starts to become increasingly active if a participant is shown the face of someone of a different race. Participants were essentially put into an MRI machine, shown the face of a different race for a fraction of a second and their brain activity was measured.
Race and skin tone have historically been a very useful way for us to distinguish whether someone has come from afar or near. This is probably why the part of our brain involved in protection (the amygdala) fires up in response to seeing someone of a different race. This experiment has been replicated quite successfully so meaning that the reaction to race is pretty well founded.
If you have racist predispositions, the amygdala (primitive brain) stays fired up. In essence, unsurprisingly those daft racists have a greater predisposition to use the more primitive monkey brain.
However, if you don’t have racist predispositions something amazing happens. The more recently developed part of the brain is the frontal cortex. The frontal cortex is responsible for logic, creativity, cognition etc. ie all the fantastic things that make us human.
In the mentioned experiments, if the participant has less racist predispositions and are shown the image for longer than a fraction of a second, the frontal cortex begins to speak to the amygdala and the amygdala calms. No more panic.
This is equivalent to a toddler experiencing fear when it first sees something “foreign”. It panics but the toddler’s more intelligent mother soothes the toddler and tells the toddler that there’s nothing to worry about. The toddler then rewrites its experience and the amygdala (primitive mind) stays calm. The toddler is unthreatened.
Racism is taught so it’s not rewired
So we have this ingrained, initial response of fear and then calm as our more intelligent brain tells us that everything is ok. This is what should happen. So then the question is, why doesn’t it?
Because this clearly isn’t what happens in the western world. To demonstrate, I’ll quote a previous post, The Real Black History
I have the following statistics:
- Black people are 7x more likely to be stopped and searched (ref)
- Black women are 5 times more likely to die during pregnancy, childbirth and post-birth (ref)
- African Americans are half as likely to be prescribed pain medication (ref)
- Black children are 2.6x more likely to be excluded for the same or even when displaying better behavior than their white counterparts (ref)
- Black children are under-assessed i.e. “in-school bias” results in their intelligence being underestimated when compared to other children who produce the same quality of work (ref)
- Black and Muslim individuals need to send up to twice as many job applications to receive an interview for identical CVs (ref)
- Black people are paid 17% less for the same level of education than their white counterparts (ref)
The beauty of statistics is that we don’t need to rely on anecdotes. We don’t need to rely on people telling us that they have black friends, that they don’t see race or that “Britain / America is so tolerant”. Why you would tolerate culture and not celebrate it is beyond me. But anyway, we can see with the above data that there is a clear underlying narrative. Black people are more dangerous, more disposable, naughtier, more stupid, less competant etc.
Another depressing reality of these findings is that there is some cross over to Muslims and working class whites. Clearly something has happened. For there to be specific biases to specific races, it means that there must have been a specific intervention to cause such an outcome.
Black History and beyond
What do blacks, working class whites and muslims have in common? The western world has been at war with them all. From the transatlantic slave trade, segregation, aparteid, jim crow and more. To the insufferable class system of western Europe. To the Spanish reconquista, the crusades, the war in Afghanistan, Iraq and the muslim ban in the US.
Before we proceed, one thing we have to acknowledge is how hard it is for one human to harm another. We are social beings. Evolutionarily speaking, there is a reason why we have a conscience; widespread violence bodes well for no community.
However we have seen over and over again, that focused violence can accelerate the progression of a community. The British Empire, Nazi Germany, The French Empire etc are all testimony to his. These invasive, oppressive, greedy empires needed a way to overrule the conscience of the people. They used propaganda to do just that.
The Christian Church provided the curse of ham to justify slavery; scientists then turned to eugenics. Slavers looked past the abuse they dealt to idolise the money they accrued. This is another important fact to remember; people will look past their own ethical philosophy if it profits them to do so.
So to conclude, we have an unfinished process. A primitive response to fear the unknown which hasn’t been unlearnt due to the propaganda hard wiring this primitive response which is racism.
So what do we do about it?
The problem with Anti-Racism
Imagine we’re sitting in a car together and we’re driving down the motorway / highway. I ask you to stop looking out for the yellow cars. I don’t want you to see the yellow cars, yet I guarantee that you will see every yellow car that passes. Our mind focuses on what we pay attention to.
Likewise, imagine you’re unhealthy. You are riddled with disease, inflammation and bacterial infections; there are too many ailments to count. If you received the instruction to eradicate disease, you wouldn’t know where to start.
On the contrary, you were asked to look for the birds out of the car window in the first example; or to find health in the second example, the path forward becomes a lot simpler. This is one of the issues with modern medicine, which is fighting so hard to find disease, that they forget to find health hence our increasing levels of cancer, diabetes, stroke and heart disease in the western world.
This is why I disagree with Marley K in her notion to tear racism from society. You won’t know when to stop. You won’t know where else to focus.
Eradicating racism comes from focusing on the opposite of where racism focuses. Racism encourages its hosts to focus on the lowest manifestations of that race. The criminal, the rapist, the murderer, the greedy, the lazy etc.
As Jane Elliott says
“You will end racism today if you start to teach the achievements of brown eyed people…”
This is my mission. I am going to be very busy, because our achievements as a people are as endless as any others. But by changing the conversation, we can finish what should have started. We can overwrite this primal yet reinforced fear of what is different. And once we eradicate fear of what is different, we can start to celebrate our differences.
I have created a curriculum for children in the western world to enlighten them on these many achievements. My company is blackhistory.school and the black history curriculum will shortly roll out across the south east of england and then beyond.
Check out the resources. You will learn how black people have been shaping the world as we know it for 7600 years, providing the foundation and refinement of religion, science, civilisation and more. From the Ancient Egyptians to the Moors, from Mansa Musa to Martin Luther King. By focusing on the undeniable accomplishments of black people, we can eradicate racism.
Let me know your thoughts