I remember one day in the second grade. There was a commotion and I asked what was going on. The teacher told me in a sort of hushed tone that one of my classmates was in trouble for refusing to play ball with a kid in our class named Mike. When I asked why, she whispered that it was because Mike was black. My head was just spinning. What on earth
did that have to do with playing ball? It was my first witnessing of racism; and in a sense my head has not stopped spinning since.
Of all of the world’s evils racism is the only one that I have a great deal of trouble understanding. Other vices--even the ones I am seldom if ever tempted to commit--at least seem comprehensible to me, but racism, for me, is a huge mind-screw.*
I’ve tried to understand it for a long time now and though I still haven’t quite succeeded, I have a few theories (or at least a few ruminations).
It’s far too easy to pass the thing off as the mere result of not thinking at all—at least for every
of the time. Nor is it just a sign of low intelligence. H.P. Lovecraft, for example, was one of the most brilliant people who ever lived and he was also one of the most ridiculously racist (though still also ridiculously talented) authors in the history of fiction. I speculate that his
racism may have resulted from or tied into some weird theories he had about genetics, evolutionary biology, “racial memories” and atavisms.
Part of the fuel or appeal of racism, I suppose, must just be the nearly universal human tendency not to think for oneself but instead just believe whatever one is brought up to believe or what is being believed by the bandwagon all around one.--You know, that thing the Koran is always complaining about, and which every prophet had to face: “We will believe what our fathers did.” If someone like that is raised by racist guardians and/or in a racist climate, their (avoidably) weak minds will naturally assume the zeitgeist to be true and never question it—just like the average person never questions anything else their upbringing or zeitgeist spoonfeeds them. There are places in the Middle East, for example, where propaganda against all Jews/Arabs (and Americans especially) is poured out in droves.
Sometimes it’s the military. When someone goes to war against an army of another race I guess the superior officers try to get them to kill with extreme prejudice in as many ways as possible. The ends justify the means, they think. They never seem to consider what happens when the war is over and the brainwashed now-racist survivors return to civilian life in their own cultures.
I’ve heard an interesting theory
at TV Tropes.
Of course, it is all too easy a miscalculation for the human mind to overgeneralize anything
, isn’t it? That’s why statistics that measure negligible portions of gargantuan groups of people are universally believed. We meet one guy from Type of Person X and don’t like him, well fine. We meet five…okay, a little odd. We meet twenty or thirty, and none we do
like…well, it’s all too easy to jump to the conclusion that they’re all bad, isn’t it? How amazingly seldom does it occur to people that Type of Person X usually represents thousands or millions
of times the number of its representatives whom they'd met. A lot of us have our own prejudices as a result. All it takes is a leap in logic. That's all that predjudice is
, really, and many if not most of us suffer perhaps to some degree or other from prejudice against someone or something. I, for example, am probably pretty prejudiced against politicians in general. But hey, in my country (and in many others) the system is literally worked out so that avoiding corruption is unnaturally and needlessly difficult even if you’re trying.
But a skin tone? The shape of someone’s hair follicle? The size of their nose? These have to do with what
exactly, and who thinks so and why
Then again (and this ties into what I just said), is that kind of thing--is racism--any more absurd than those people who insist that “you can tell a lot about a person” by their handshake or the way they wear their hat or etc.? It’s all the same thing. Superstition, really. That’s what’s at the heart of all
those such things. You see a black cat cross your path, you’re fired from work later that day, it’s because of the unrelated black cat. You meet enough guys who wear their hats a certain way…well, you can see how it goes. Fallacy of Questionable Cause. ad hoc post proster hoc
. People are universally frightened by their own ignorance, I think. They’re so desperate to understand the world about them that they will try insanely irrational shortcuts such as those superstitions or pre-judgments of situations or people…like racism.
An ideal human being is someone who could meet 999,999 out of a group of 100,000 randomly assorted individuals with the only things in common between them being things which have no impact on the brain chemistry (like skin tone)—or the soul—and dislike all of the first 999,999 for perfectly coincidental and valid reasons—and then be just as warmly open to the idea of liking the last of the 100,000 at that point as they would have been if that last person had been the first. Because they’d recognize that no matter how stacked the odds may seem from their perspective (the old exrpession does
go, "Experience is the mother of illusion"...) there’s no possible way for this one last apple to be as bad as the others in the bunch because
of the others in the bunch, so that if it is
bad then its for its own reasons, but it has no worse odds of being a bad apple at all. For even infinity
stacked against zero is still a no-contest win for zero.
What I’d like to ask of you all is what theories you have (and mentioning what you think of my
ideas might help)--and perhaps more importantly, what you think we can do to get the truth better known?
*For those unfamiliar with Western slang, that’s not a vulgarity in its true and original meaning (even though there is a more vulgar counterpart to the phrase which misrepresents that true and original meaning somewhat). The term actually is supposed to refer to something being screwed into your head as by a screwdriver.