Media accounts, and discussion, of racism — especially in an era when the President of the United States has systematically, and effectively, employed this device to enlist political support of the most virulent bigots with voting rights — are almost universally without intellectual, social, or historical depth.
Furious discussion as to what words or behavior are “racist”, empty and false declarations that such behavior is “not what we are” — these are the daily contributions of editors, politicians, and media commentators everywhere.
A fundamental truth seems always missing.
“Racism” is embedded in the RNA of every human, and in many, if not all, animals. Evolution has ensured the survival of species partly due to this fact.
Every human and or animal is born with an instinctive wariness, distrust, fear, and perhaps loathing of any among them who look, sound, smell, or behave “differently.”
Does that albino animal not have the expected skin color? Kill or chase it from the group. Does that person use unfamiliar language, have an unknown accent, wear strange clothing, have oddly colored skin, pray to peculiar gods, smell different? Get rid of them in a hurry.
To a thoughtful layperson, this instinct obviously served prehistoric tribal members as a means to avoid and/or repel those who might well threaten their existence. The strength, the virulence, of this evolutionary trait, as with others, varies from one individual to another. But evolution, fortunately, has also developed in us something else: a brain.
Intelligence, or, to use some current nomenclature, “counter-intelligence,” can be used to inspect, evaluate, and check instinctive urges.
Is that person really a threat to me? Does he also have a mother, father, children whom he loves and cares for? Does he, like me, probably struggle to make a living? Does he, like me, want to be treated decently and be accepted as a part of the community? If I behave respectfully toward him wouldn’t he probably treat me that way? If I want to live without being repressed or enslaved, doesn’t he probably feel the same?
The strength of this evolutionary trait, too, varies from one individual to another, along with a brain function known as “empathic”: the ability to “feel with” another.
Weak or strong, the latter are there to be used.
The choice may be called “character.”