Racism: Delusion to overcome

Happy Black History Month to all connoisseurs of soul across the Valley.

My house, CE 1854, sits on The Underground Railroad in Warren and as I write this I can imagine how good it felt to house a grateful runaway slave.

Unfortunately, in another era, our founding fathers decided to build our young nation on the backs of black American slaves. Thank goodness Uncle Sam is much wiser now and at least offers a little heartfelt February thanks to the descendants of those who sacrificed so much for America.

Unity is good for the United States, isn’t it?

So, if America’s ”team captain,” the Caucasian majority, were to wholeheartedly rally around a struggling teammate, the black minority, with convincing encouragement, our team would improve, right? But teamwork only works when we all come together in good faith.

Historically, the 13th Amendment (1865) and The Civil Rights Act (1964) barely passed Congress to barely show our team spirit.

Unity and good faith may be hard to come by these days too. A recent Rasmussen poll showed 37 percent of Caucasians believe most blacks are racists while 24 percent of blacks believe most Caucasians are racist. And an AP poll showed 51 percent of Caucasian Americans harbor negative racial prejudices against black Americans. Since anti-black numbers have spiked in recent years, analysts generally blamed the steady stream of negative press against President Obama.

Thank God I found a more important study with some great news.

Science welcomes another breakthrough in human understanding: ”race” is no longer a scientifically supported notion backed by scientific facts.

This means, technically speaking, Black History Month is a celebration of an American ethnic minority, and not a race of people.

After 50 years of DNA research all of the cold, hard facts point toward a greater human family where racism plays the dubious role of a nasty sibling rivalry between family members. Let’s do our part to show both race and racism the way out of our society.

Obviously, there is a big difference between reality and what people think, but if race is a mere delusion, why have so many people fallen for it through the ages?

Are there inborn factors causing people to become racists or must it be taught? Actually, there is new evidence that both are correct.

Although racism still thrives in ”modern” societies across the globe, psychologists have attributed its origin to our animal instincts that serve to strengthen in-group bonding in social mammals. In other words, whether a family teaches racism explicitly or not, the minds of our children arbitrarily associate in-group characteristics into their psyches as trustworthy characteristics and, by default, they naturally learn to distrust the out-groups.

Therefore, children from segregated societies, and children who are explicitly taught the evils of the out-groups, are very likely to harbor racial prejudices.

Also, negative personal experiences with an out-group can stir racist emotions in just about anybody.

Humans begin to observe and define our ”in-group” more every year beginning in infancy and the limits of our trust and cooperation stay with us into adulthood. It’s natural that we bond with those who teach us our language, share our values, foods, beliefs and traditions. In-group bonding is important for group survival because, in a pinch, those who ”got your back” are your in-group members.

However, take note: there is no pre-determined characteristic required for strong in-group bonding; therefore, it is possible for us to redraw the lines that divide us and put racism behind us once and for all.

Recent studies have confirmed that newborn infants and toddlers do not react to the color of a person’s skin anymore than the color of the shirt they happen to be wearing. Further studies have proven that strong racist beliefs grow through the years and must be reinforced by members of the in-group.

Though it may even be natural for insulated communities of Homo sapiens to implicitly or explicitly teach their children racism for in-group bonding; it is neither necessary nor good. Now, one crucial point remains: racism won’t go away unless we deliberately teach it away.

Perhaps the greatest work of humanity is still unrealized before us. Humanity has been so busy creating innovative gadgets for ”civilization” that we remained uncivil. All along, we had the ability to transcend our base animal nature for the benefit of all. Every major world religion has even admonished us to practice agape love, and yet we continue to ignore our greatest cause simply to feel more comfortable with our in-group.

Unless someone can tell me how racism serves the public good, we all need more Black History lessons.

Herman is a Warren resident.