Racism & The Hard Wired Brain

Somewhere on the Appalachian Trail in America
Somewhere on the Appalachian Trail in America

Racism is inherent in the human condition. Humans are hard wired to see differences and draw conclusions about the meaning of those differences based on experience. Humans are wired to identify “us” and “them” and differences of race are just too big for the human brain to ignore.

There is nothing immoral or inhuman about naturally drawing such conclusions. The mechanisms are largely below the conscious threshold. This is true of all human beings regardless of their skin color. All are born natural racists.

The point of education is to bring the rational mind and the heart into the conversation and help them see the evidence that there is more that unites than divides, to see the humanity in all that underlies the differences. There is nothing inherently awful about starting out life as a racist. It is the human condition. The tragedy is is not in how we start, but in how we end.

We can choose to focus either on differences, or we can choose to focus on those things we have in common. Our brain is hard wired in many respects, but we have the ability – if we choose – to step outside that hard wiring and place our focus not on differences, but on what we share, and as humans we share a great deal when we can see it.

We cannot cure racism without making the conscious choice to do so. This is true of all people, regardless of the color of their skin. The ability to make choices is one of our greatest talents if we choose to use it.

Racism is not the legacy of just one set of people. If you are a human being the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of  you having at some time held some views that had some vestiges of racism, some vestige of making automatic judgments about some people based on their race.

The solution is not guilt. That has never been a good solution.

The solution is to engage all of our faculties to find what unites, not what divides. More often than not those things that divide are largely superficial. The difficulty  is in our nature, the human condition, but we do have the power if we choose to override the hard wiring.

lwk

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