The Psychology of Racism
Racism has been (and unfortunately still is) such a prominent feature of so many human societies that it might be tempting to think of it as somehow “natural” or “innate.” And indeed, this is the conclusion that some evolutionary psychologists have come to. Evolutionary psychology tries to account for present-day human traits in terms of the survival benefit they might have had to our ancestors. If a trait has survived and become prevalent, then the genes associated with it must have been “selected” by evolution. According to this logic, racism is prevalent, because it was beneficial for early human beings to deprive other groups of resources. It would have done our ancestors no good to be altruistic and allow other groups to share their resources; that would have just decreased their own chances of survival. But if they could subjugate and oppress other groups, this would increase their own access to resources. In these terms, according to Pascal Boyer, racism is “a consequence of highly efficient economic strategies,” enabling us to “keep members of other groups in a lower-status position, with distinctly worse benefits.” (1) Another related idea is that to see one’s own group as special or superior would have helped us to survive by enhancing group cohesion.
However, like so many of the “just so” stories put forward in the name of evolutionary psychology, these ideas are extremely dubious. First of all, anthropologists who have studied contemporary hunter-gatherer tribes (who follow the same lifestyle as prehistoric human beings and can therefore be seen as representative of our species’ ancient past) report that they do not generally behave with this kind of hostility towards other groups. They don’t tend to see other tribes in their vicinity as competitors for the same food sources and try to subjugate them, or restrict their access to resources. Contemporary hunter-gatherer groups are fairly fluid, with a changing membership. Different groups interact with each other a lot, regularly visiting each other, making marriage alliances, and sometimes switching members. This is not the kind of behavior that we would associate with racism. (2)
Significantly, hunter-gatherer groups don’t tend to be territorial. They don’t have a possessive attitude toward particular pieces of land or food resources. As the anthropologists Burch and Ellanna put it, “both social and spatial boundaries among hunter-gatherers are extremely flexible with regard to membership and geographic extent.” (3) There is archaeological evidence for this lack of concern for territory too. Anthropologist Jonathan Haas writes of prehistoric North America, for instance: “The archaeological record gives no evidence of territorial behavior on the part of any of these first hunters and gatherers. Rather, they seem to have developed a very open network of communication and interaction that spread across the continent.” (4) Again, this is not the kind of behavior which would fit with an “innate” racism.
Racism As a Psychological Defense Mechanism
An alternative view is that racism (and xenophobia of all kinds) does not have a genetic or evolutionary basis, but is primarily a psychological trait — more specifically, a psychological defense mechanism generated by feelings of insecurity and anxiety. There is some evidence for this view from the psychological theory of “terror management.” Research has shown that when people are given reminders of their own mortality, they feel a sense of anxiety and insecurity, which they respond to by becoming more prone to status-seeking, materialism, greed, prejudice, and aggression. They are more likely to conform to culturally accepted attitudes and to identify with their national or ethnic groups. According to Terror Management Theory, the motivation of these behaviors is to enhance one’s sense of significance or value in the face of death, or to gain a sense of security or belonging, as a way of protecting oneself against the threat of mortality. In my view, racism is a similar response to a more general sense of insignificance, unease, or inadequacy.
It is possible to identify five different aspects of racism as psychological defense mechanisms. These could also be seen as different stages, moving towards more extreme versions of racism. Firstly, if a person feels insecure or lacking, they may have a desire to affiliate themselves with a group in order to strengthen their sense of identity and find a sense of belonging. Being part of something bigger than themselves and sharing a common cause with the other members of their group makes them feel more complete and significant.
There is nothing wrong with this in and of itself — Why shouldn’t we take pride in our national or religious identity (or even our identity as fans of soccer or baseball clubs), and feel a sense of brotherhood (or sisterhood) with others who share our identity? However, this group identity may lead to a second stage: enmity towards other groups. In order to further strengthen their sense of identity, members of a group may develop hostile feelings toward other groups. The group may become more defined and cohesive in its otherness to — and in its conflict with — other groups.
The third aspect is when members of a group take the step of withdrawing empathy from members of other groups, limiting their concern and compassion to their fellows. They may act benevolently towards members of their own group, but be cruel and heartless to anyone outside it. (This helps explain why some of the most brutal individuals in history, such as Adolf Hitler, sometimes reportedly acted kindly to the people around them.) This is closely to related to a fourth aspect, which is the homogenization of individuals belonging to other groups. This means that people are no longer perceived in terms of their individual personalities or behavior, but in terms of generalized prejudices and assumptions about the group as a whole.
And finally — moving into the most dangerous and destructive extreme of racism — people may project their own psychological flaws and their own personal failings onto another group, as a strategy of avoiding responsibility and blame. Other groups become scapegoats, and consequently are liable to punished, even attacked or murdered, in revenge for their alleged crimes. Individuals with strong narcissistic and paranoid personality traits are especially prone to this strategy, since they are unable to admit to any personal faults, and are especially likely to demonize others.
A Correlation Between Racism and Psychological Health
In other words, racism — and xenophobia of any kind — is a symptom of psychological ill-health. It is a sign of a lack of psychological integration, a lack of self-esteem and inner security. Psychologically healthy people with a stable sense of self and strong inner security are not racist, because they have no need to strengthen their sense of self through group identity. They have no need to define themselves in distinction to — and in conflict with — others. Xenophobia is not the only possible response to insecurity or a sense of lacking, of course; taking drugs, drinking heavily, and becoming obsessively materialistic or ambitious may be other responses. And psychologically healthy people don’t need to resort to racism in the same way that they don’t need to resort to taking drugs.
It is also helpful to remember that there is no biological basis for dividing the human race into distinct “races.” There are just groups of human beings — all of whom came from Africa originally — who developed slightly different physical characteristics over time as they travelled to, and adapted to, different climates and environments. The differences between us are very fuzzy and very superficial. Fundamentally, there are no races — just one human race.
About the Author
Racism was supposed to have ended in Europe. Europe and the Western world were supposed to have learned from the horrific consequences of their past. According to the official narrative in the Western world, the acceptance of racism is not even a question. They are the foremost defenders of human rights and they would never tolerate racism. But the facts contradict them and the similarities between today’s racists and their forefathers are nothing short of eerie.
The world is painfully aware that racism is once again rearing its ugly head, especially after millions of Syrians were forced to become refugees and had to seek safety elsewhere. Europe has always boasted of embracing everyone, regardless of their gender, faith or ethnicity. So, when these new refugees turned to Europe for help, and saw the cold face of rejection, they understood that reality significantly differed from the painted image.
We have repeatedly written about the refugees’ ordeal and the rising tide of xenophobia. However, there is another, and less discussed, aspect of the problem and that is how colored or Muslim athletes have to put up with ceaseless racist harassment.
Unbelievable as it may sound, it is common for colored football players to be harassed during games, or Muslim players to be attacked with racist slurs. In the UK, Newcastle winger, Yasin Ben El-Mhanni, explains that Islamophobic abuse has become a regular thing for him and his friends. He says, “When I was playing grassroots level, a lot of my friends and me got comments along the lines of “suicide bomber” and “terrorist,”, stuff like that. It was quite overwhelming and disturbing. It does affect you mentally on and off the pitch. Sometimes when you get the abuse on the pitch, it affects you in the coming days, even weeks. It was very difficult to experience.”
In France, a footballer of Algerian origin, Samir Nasri faces a similar problem and he talks about the growing animosity in French society; “French people turned against the Muslims. Ten to fifteen years ago, it wasn’t like this. I don’t like the way the mentality is in France now.” Barcelona’s striker, Samuel Eto, is from Cameroon and he is regularly taunted by fans when he comes on the pitch. Even world famous names can’t escape the brutality of racism, which became clear when Roberto Carlos was harassed during a game in Russia, which made him leave the pitch in frustration. Another disturbing episode took place in the USA when Muslim Kansas City Chiefs safety, Husain Abdullah, scored a point and bowed in prayer on the pitch. Later, he was penalized for the action, but many of his Christian peers had done the same previously and had never faced a penalty.
These are just a few examples, and there is no doubt that such ugly displays reflect a deep-rooted problem that has managed to seep through the superficially laid anti-racism barrier after decades of disgraceful acts. Moreover, the racist rhetoric began to echo those of the past. For example, we have all heard about those people who claim that the presence of refugees is a threat to white ladies or that newcomers are secretly trying to take over their countries. Interestingly, someone else made similar remarks decades ago (Africans are beyond such disgraceful remarks):
“These savages are a terrible danger,” a joint declaration of the German national assembly warned in 1920, to “German women.” Writing in ‘Mein Kampf’ in the 1920s, Adolf Hitler would describe African soldiers on German soil as a Jewish conspiracy aimed to topple white people “from their cultural and political heights”.
Obviously, no sensible person would agree with the bizarre and outlandish ideas of the Nazis today, but it seems like such evil ideas have found a way to come back. Is whiteness once again turning into a pseudo-religion, as American political activist Du Bois observed in the 1900’s?
The western world claims that it has overcome the sins and mistakes of its past. It now claims that it is the center of modernism, freedom, and everything desirable. But is it?
These incidents show that, in every era of history, there will always be people of dubious morals and questionable judgment. However, today’s generations have an advantage. We saw what happened the last time the world gave in to the madness of racism. We saw how the waves of madness swallowed millions, no matter how sensible those people were previously. We also saw what happened in the end and how racism, xenophobia, and the most flagrant forms of prejudice and bigotry caused the most appalling and unthinkable crimes. Therefore, if, despite this knowledge, we allow ourselves to be swallowed by a similar tide of hatred, and allow this shameful history to repeat itself, there will be no excuse. This time, it will be a deliberately made mistake.
The writer has published over 300 books on political topics,
morals of the Qur’an and Islam and Science topics translated into 73 languages.
Next Up In Defamation Suit Against Trump: Discovery, Documents, And Depositions, Oh My!
With attorney Michael Avenatti dropping so many bombshells in his zealous representation of his client Stormy Daniels regarding the hush agreement that won’t shut up, it’s easy to forget that President Donald Trump is also facing a defamation suit by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice.”
So here’s the latest: Yesterday a New York state appellate court handed Trump another legal setback that makes a release of campaign records and depositions from both Trump and other women who have accused him of sexual misconduct more likely.
The First Department of the New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division issued a one-paragraph order denying Trump’s motion to stay the case during his appeal of New York Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schechter’s rulingthat Trump was not immune to suit solely because he is a sitting president.
“No one is above the law,” wrote Schechter. “It is settled that the president of the United States has no immunity and is ‘subject to the laws’ for purely private acts.”
In her reasoning, Schechter leaned heavily on a 1997 U.S. Supreme Court in Clinton v. Jones, in which the court allowed a lawsuit by Paula Jones against Bill Clinton to proceed, finding that a sitting president could be sued in federal court. Clinton and Jones settled out of court.
Translation: The appellate court ruled that there is no legal justification to delay the case, which can now move to discovery, barring any other appeals by Trump.
Trump’s attorney Mark Kasowitz says the appellate court’s decision denying the stay is wrong.
“There is no valid reason in this case — in which plaintiff is seeking merely $3,000 in damages, and which plaintiff’s counsel has repeatedly insisted was brought for political purposes — for the court not to grant the requested stay in order to take the time to first decide the threshold constitutional issue that is at stake.”
Opinion: Why don’t we know we’re racist?
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, and yet here we are at the end of another week of being asked to prove racism exists.
I have reason to believe the recent gale-force winds were caused by all the people of color in New Zealand sighing at the same time.
If you missed it (you didn’t) Taika Waititi, director and comedian and Māori and New Zealander of the Year, told Dazed that: “New Zealand is the best place on the planet, but it’s a racist place.” Many people who chose to disagree publicly did so by being incredibly racist.
trying to explain away low levels of racial bias is still acknowledging it exists. Claiming that people who aren’t white can be racist is still acknowledging it exists. Telling ‘his’ to learn English properly, and calling Māori ‘greedy’ and ‘ungrateful’ most definitely proves it exists.
My favorite (non) argument is Chatham’s Law, our very own version of Godwin’s – people who trot out the trusty ‘But Māori killed all the Moriori’ argument, but who clearly don’t care enough about their existence to check if it’s true. For what its worth, there are many Moriori descendants in New Zealand who are tired of racists telling the world they don’t exist, and as a historical issue it’s a very complicated (and yes, tragic and violent) one involving only two iwis (at a time when ‘Māori’ was very far from being a national identity) who may have diverted from traditional practices under the influence of destructive behaviours learned from the British… But who can be bothered with all that reading when you can just yell ‘But Morioris!’ into the void?
So far all of the ‘arguments’ for Waititi’s statement not being true have enforced the fact that New Zealanders have been, are and continue to be racist in many ways big and small, with green eggs and ham, on a boat, with a goat, in the rain, and on a train.
In fact, Stuff wrote a piece titled ‘Yes, some Kiwis are as racist as Taika Waititi says. Here’s the proof’ of all the comments they couldn’t publish because they didn’t comply with their standards.
Education Minister David Eggen assigned to find ways to tackle racism
Premier Rachel Notley has given her education minister a summer assignment: find ways for the Alberta government to fight racism and promote diversity.
In a letter to David Eggen outlining her expectations, Notley said the shooting deaths of six Muslim men at a mosque in Quebec City in January prompted her to find ways for the government to fight racism.
She said Alberta is making progress, “but there is work to be done.”
“In recent years, we have witnessed growing concern about racism,” Notley writes. “I share that concern and I know you do, too.”
Eggen will find people from different communities to advise the government, finish a review of policies in other Canadian jurisdictions and ask groups fighting racism about what works and what doesn’t.
The premier also wants Eggen to find ways to promote more diversity and inclusion within the public service and Alberta’s agencies boards and commissions.
Eggen said tackling racism is an issue government should undertake.
“Our basic responsibility of government is for a safe environment by which people can live and raise their families,” he said. “It’s an extension of my safe and caring efforts in schools. That extends to the larger society.”
Premier Rachel Notley has given her education minister a summer assignment: find ways for the Alberta government to fight racism and promote diversity. In a letter to David Eggen outlining her expectations, Notley said the shooting deaths of six Muslim men at a mosque in Quebec City in January prompted her to find ways for the government to fight racism. She said Alberta is making progress, “but there is work to be done.”
In a letter to David Eggen outlining her expectations, Notley said the shooting deaths of six Muslim men at a mosque in Quebec City in January prompted her to find ways for the government to fight racism. She said Alberta is making progress, “but there is work to be done.”
Racism” is from the root “Race” which is an invention of white supremacy.
It is now obvious that only a very small number of genes determine our physical appearance and they are not in any way connected to genes that influence our abilities or qualities.
In the post-Civil Rights era, there is a temptation to assume that racism is no longer the pressing social concern in the United States that it once was.
According to the authors, in 21st century, skin color has come to replace race as an important cause of discrimination. This is evidenced in the increasing usage of the term “people of color” to encompass people of a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds.
In order to disclose this topic we addressed a few questions to Ronald Hall who is a professor of social work at the Michigan State University and an expert in racism and diversity.
Where does the word racism come from?
Racism” is from the root “Race” which is an invention of white supremacy.
Many years ago people believed that it was possible to categorize human beings into groups that were called ‘races’. And that such categorization could establish some physical characteristics (for example skin colour or facial features) as well as qualities or particular abilities.
The belief that by looking at a person’s physical characteristics one can draw conclusions about them, and that some ‘races’ are altogether inferior or superior to others has come to be known as racism.
A very small number of genes determine our physical appearance and they are not in any way connected to genes that influence our abilities or qualities.
Research confirms that there are more biological differences within any one so-called ‘race’ than between any two. It comes out that there is only one race, The Human Race, to which we all belong and that people of all colours and appearances can have similar potential.
What Can We Do to Fight Racism?
The more people who stand up against racism, the less likely it will be that it takes hold.
At root racism is economic. The first thing to do is to eliminate “Race” from discourse.
Also i would suggest to fight racism:
By getting to know everyone around you and making friends based on personality, not skin colour.
Do not tolerate racist jokes or conversation in your presence.”
You should also refuse to support shops or companies that you feel are racist.
You can also organise an anti-racism campaign in your neighbourhood.
Do you agree that “Racism is taught”?
No doubt racism is taught. In the book “The history of white people” by Nell Painter, the author stresses that we are human beings and we are prone to learn everything that is happening around us.
Scientifically speaking, children are like sponges, they absorb everything in their path. Researches have shown that between the ages of 0 and 5 years the brain grows at a critical rate. It absorbs more information in between these years than any other.
From the moment of birth, an infant is making connections with the world. Racism is learned like anything else in the world.
Parents have a large influence on how a child deals with other people socially. The experience of interaction with the society begins at home.
I don’t believe that someone just is a racist to be racist. Children listen to how there mom and dad talk about others. Most of the time, adults use hateful language around children unaware of how they are affecting them. Children will often repeat what there parents say. They offend someone and they might think it’s ok because mommy and daddy said it was. The responsibility lays on parents to admit their mistakes and correct children.
SAHRC concerned over discrimination allegations at schools
CAPE TOWN – The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has raised serious concerns over allegations of discrimination at several schools across the country.
Learners have been protesting against what they view as discriminatory and racist policies at schools in Cape Town, Pretoria and Bloemfontein.
In a statement, the SAHRC has noted the various allegations of differential treatment and discrimination experienced by black learners at several schools.
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi is investigating claims of racism and discrimination at Pretoria High School for Girls following a protest by a group of learners last week.
This demonstration sparked similar protests at Saint Michael’s and Sans Souci where some learners claim they’ve been subjected to racism and discrimination from teachers and fellow learners, based on the school’s language and hair policies.
Why race and identity will remain the dividing line in American politics for a while to come
Writing yesterday about how race and identity has become the central dividing line in American politics, I argued that we are likely to have a politics dominated by race and identity for the near-term future.
This is a big claim, so I want to spend some time here explaining why I believe this is our near-term future, and what it might mean for how American politics will function.
The short version of the explanation is that race and identity is now the main issue holding both parties’ coalitions together, which means that neither party’s leadership has a strong incentive to try to make politics about anything else. The short version of the implication is that most likely this will reduce polarization, because it splits the parties on economic issues and thus creates a whole new set of cross-party coalitions. However, there are ways in which it could also fundamentally tear our nation apart.
Seeing politics in two dimensions
In yesterday’s post, I spent a while discussing the two-dimensional nature of conflict, borrowing an analysis from the political scientist E.E. Schattschneider and drawing on related insights from Gary Miller and Norman Schofield on how activist groups within parties affect realignment dynamics.
The quick foundational point from the post is that American political opinion is two-dimensional, and those two dimensions tend to be organized around two types of issues, economic and social/identity issues. For most people, the correlation between their beliefs on the two issues is actually quite low. And here’s the big takeaway: Depending on which issue is the primary dividing line, the party system can look quite different.
Black – an insightful tale of racism, poverty and alienation
Black is a film adaptation of books by author Dirk Bracke—influenced by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Arthur Laurents’ West Side Story,
It is largely set in Molenbeek, a district of Brussels in Belgium.
This is where some of those involved in recent terror attacks in Brussels and Paris were from. The location is a critical element to the plot. Molenbeek is an area with high unemployment and many recent immigrants.
It’s where we meet young Marwan (Aboubakr Bensaihi) and Mavela (Martha Canga Antonio), who start dating despite being from opposing gangs, the 1080s and Black Bronx.
The film’s most violent and inhumane moments are between and within the gangs.
It seemed that it was trying to tackle too many issues within a limited time frame and the dramatic plot was in danger of overshadowing its comment on race, gender and class.
But, surprisingly, it works because it focuses on social divisions and the racism faced by young people who seek a sense of belonging within the gangs.
The couple ultimately face the consequences of their decision to leave the gangs.
Marwan is seen as disloyal and Mavela is seen as someone else’s property. When Marwan looks to leave the gang and get a job his elder brother and gang leader Nassim tells him it’s futile. “You were born here but you’re still different, you’ll always be a foreigner,” he says.
How India can stem the rising scourge of racism against Africans
laIndia has seen a rise in incidents of racism by its citizens against foreign nationals, especially Africans, in recent times. As a country with the rgest diaspora communities, India needs to be particularly worried by this development.
The country is home to a significant migrant population, most of it from the neighbouring countries in South Asia. In 2010, there were 5.4 million foreign-born people in the country. The number of Africans in India is estimated to be about 40 000, of whom 25 000 are students.
Yet, these small numbers are significant for the growing relations between India and Africa. The Indian government has been announcing scholarships, grants and credit lines for Africa against the backdrop of the India-Africa Forum summits. In spite of these efforts to woo Africa, the government is in denial about racist attacks against Africans in India.
In the wake of the recent attacks on Africans in India, the official denial that such acts are racist hampers efforts to tackle the problem. This, plus the fact that the perpetrators are hardly ever brought to book is a major cause for their recurrence.
India and Africa matter to each other
The government positioning stands in contrast to the historic relations between India and Africa founded on the tenets of anti-racism and anti-colonialism. Moreover, the government’s stand risks jeopardising India’s growing relations with Africa in the fields of trade, technology and human resource development. India’s trade with Africa has grown from $1 billion in 1990-1991 to $71 billion in 2014-2015.