Naturally Racist

Naturally RacistThe online matchmaking site Okcupid ran a survey of its members. When they first started looking at first-contact attempts and who was writing who back, they say it was immediately obvious that the sender’s race was a huge factor.

That offers some proof to what has long been obvious to me: homo sapiens are naturally racist. If nothing else, race provides the simplest way for our innate tribal instinct to play itself out. Idealism and political correctness just inhibit us from seeing ourselves honestly.

Alas, without self-honesty, how can we ever manage life better than we currently do?

If I’m completely honest, I must admit I am racist—and naturally so. However, perhaps not in the usual sense, but then who really is? Racism is often regarded as being anti something. To my way of thinking, that negativity is bigotry (prejudice,  bias,  narrow-mindedness). What is the difference? Simply put, racism is to bigotry as need is to desire(1). Need + thought = desire and racism + thought = bigotry. That probably seems like I’m splitting hairs; after all, the dictionary sees them practically synonymous. However, broad understanding ironically requires some rigorous hair splitting.

Here again, it is the thinking that pushes natural instincts to extremes, and results in unintended consequences; natural ‘racism’ ends in bigotry. This ‘thinking disease’ is unique to humans (as far as I know). Chapter 71 cautions:

Realizing I don’t know is better; not knowing this knowing is disease.

Knowing the constant is our only protection from the misdirection that thinking and ‘knowledge’ often cause. Chapter 16 hints at this:

…Returning to the root cause is called stillness, this means answering to one’s destiny;
Answering to one’s destiny is called the constant, knowing the constant is called honest.
Not knowing the constant, rash actions lead to ominous results.
Knowing the constant allows, allowing therefore impartial…,

The only problem: Just what is the constant of which we are counseled to be mindful? I do see a few clues. First, biology offers a clear step toward returning to the root cause. Biology is obviously a major constant for any species. Mind you, I don’t mean to limit the constant to just biology. The constant can also allude to that which is completely beyond words and definition. Still, biology helps transcend the long-term culturally programmed biases with which we all emerge from childhood.

If, in my thinking, I come away with any ‘knowledge’ that is less than impartial, I know my thinking is still bigoted! (i.e., biased, prejudiced, partisan, narrow-minded, unfair). This is where racism can part company with bigotry. Feeling attraction to one’s ‘race’ is natural, as that survey suggest. Moreover, ‘race’ is much more than just ethnic origin. As they say, ‘birds of a feather flock together’, and that really means whatever common purposes and common interests we flock together around. I guess… unless, perhaps you happen to be a ‘taoist’ by nature? Hmm…

More broadly, however, doesn’t this all come down to the dynamics of attraction and aversion? These forces are the workhorse of life itself, from protozoa to presidents. The only significant difference lies in the thinking we engage it, without truly realizing its inherent danger. You could say we are intoxicated by thought, and can’t see its double edge nature. Our view of life naturally reflects what we need and fear in life. Yet, we don’t see this subjective bias; rather we believe we are seeing things as they are—objectively. The closest we can ever get to objectivity occurs when we do not care ‘which side wins the day’. That is tough if you truly do care in the largest sense of the word—if you are aware.

Try some rigorous hair splitting

Correlations is the most effective method I’ve found to get to the bottom of things, cognitively speaking anyway. True, time and experience are better, but they require one’s whole lifetime to play out. I imagine the main reason correlations hasn’t been very appealing is that they only work if you allow them to challenge your biases and preconceptions. Alas, we mostly seek confirmation of our biases, not challenges to them. We hang on to our biases tenaciously because they maintain our illusionary sense of self. As Buddha’s 2nd Noble Truth points out: “The illusion of self originates and manifests itself in a cleaving to things“, and biases are some of our most precious ‘things’.

I considered using correlations here in this post to probe the race issue more fully. Fortunately, I am sober enough now— time and experience—to accept how futile this could be. The only way to probe deeper through correlations is to experience the correlations process subjectively—personally. So, I turn this over to you. Click a link! ;-)

(1) There is a side issue here. Thinking may well lie at the heart of ‘there are two sides to the coin‘ aspect to life, at least as it pertains to human suffering. Thinking drives perceptions in one direction which needs to have the antithesis to maintain the illusion of difference. In stillness, silence, and profound sameness, there is no perceptible duality. Does this mean it is all a figment of our imagination? Hmm… ?

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4 Responses to “Naturally Racist”

  • Racism is not an innate, biological, and natural response to someone from another ethnic group. When you put babies in a room, they do not discriminate against each other based on skin color. You will not and cannot find racist newborns because their minds have not yet been taught those social categories and dualistic thinking.

    Racism is something that is socially conditioned over time, repeated in our environment by our parents, education, media, government, etc. In many countries, you will find that people of the same skin color discriminate against each other because one group has been historically and socially constructed to be another ethnic group, often from a geographical, class, or religious difference.

    Highlighting racial differences will only strengthen the mental concept of “race.”

  • How about that! I thought I might touch a nerve with this post. I’m afraid there are a few facts you overlooked.

    The fact that babies don’t discriminate (i.e., don’t exhibit tribal reactions) holds true for ALL infant tribal animals, from rats to chimps. Numerous instincts only kick in after puberty… territorial, sexual, perhaps pecking order (hierarchy), are some examples. Our failure to accept our biological reality only ensures that it will continue to hold absolute sway over our species.

    Your idealistic desires (need + thought) are nothing new. We drag these cultural fantasies along with us throughout the ages. There is nothing wrong with hoping for ‘peace and earth and good will to men’. However, to expect it to be possible ‘if’ we were just ‘different’ (i.e., not socially conditioned, in the hands of the devil,or whatever) is just blindness caused by the glare of idealistic rationalizations. Those with such ‘good’ intensions seldom can see how the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    Actually being self-honest enough to see ourselves as the simple animals we are, might be the first step to possibly moderating how we act and react.

    Admittedly, that will take considerable courage; it is so much easier to hide behind the ‘group think’ of the day. Self-honesty will never be the perfect solution we crave. However, it does offer a starting point. The alternative is to continue thrashing around in the vicious cycle battling reality with our ideals–guess which wins? C’est la vie.

  • You know, I’ve always wondered about the current fight for civil rights in our country (USA). It was a noble cause that brought about great change. I find it to be a different story, today. In fighting ‘racism’, hasn’t it become mainstream, organized and made more acceptable while it cries out that racism is unacceptable? Take the NAACP, for example. Where’s the diversity in that organization? Another is La Raza, a Spanish organization which literally translated is ‘The Race’. The more we want to believe things are changing the more they stay the same. As Carl says, we just ‘hoodwink’ ourselves into believing they ‘look different’. No doubt racism today is a morality play rooted in our needs and fears.

    We can only fault ourselves for ‘thinking too much’. Maybe Forest Gump is right. “Stupid is as stupid does.” In other words, you can’t reason with reason.

  • I would like to see a black perspective on this.

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