|Essay type:||Evaluation essays|
|Categories:||Racism Human behavior Social issue Essays by wordcount|
The concept of racism as human nature has haunted sociology scholars for centuries as the debacle of the remedy for racism steers far from realization regardless of advancements in knowledge, information, awareness, and education shared across the world against racist attitudes (D'Eon, 2019). The Cambridge English Dictionary defines the phrase “human nature” as a collection of traits shared among members of the human race believed to be inborn (Cambridge Dictionary, 2020). The implication, therefore, is that human nature consists of characteristics that are present in the behaviorism of all people since they are born that way(Downes & Machery, 2013). However, Downes and Machery (2013) are quick to present a reservation that the concept of human nature is one under contention in philosophical circles for centuries since it is disputed whether the essence of commonality or uniformity in humanity exists. The topic of racism has equally baffled scholars alike with suggestions that racism is one of the characteristic traits of human nature. But that notion is not without adequate refutations (D'Eon, 2019). In this discussion, racism is explored in the context of human nature debate to unearth the truth about the claim that racism is an inert human trait; hence, impossible to eradicate.
According to D'Eon (2019), racism just like violence and inequality are not part of the human condition; rather, are aspects that can be introduced into human experiences. In other words, people have a choice as a species equipped with the capacity to create and imagine homogenous and diverse possibilities as options for material reality. The jargon aside, what D’Eon meant is that racism is a trait that is learned rather than inert implying that people are taught to be racist; hence, one cannot be born a racist. This notion is reverberated by a BBC article that bashed society for learning racism instinctively and advocated for unlearning racism as a means for overcoming it as well as bigotry associated with racism (Oliver, 2020). Oliver continues by posing the daring question on the veracity of racism as a human condition by asking whether bigotry is in the DNA of mankind. To which he finds that no evidence empirical, spiritual, or otherwise exists to support the idea of DNA containing racist traits. Based on this understanding, it appears that the debate against human nature as a scapegoat to explain bigotry is rejected widely.
That notwithstanding, contemporary arguments in public forums such as press commentaries, politics, and social gatherings have often taken a biological assumption that people are racist based on their skin color and; hence, tend to align with the racist ideologies of their genetic make-up when it comes to the complexion of their appearance (Abdel-Fattah, 2016). For this reason, biology and evolution have been accused of being the main culprits behind racist attitudes. Moreover, support for this line of thought comes from similar psychological research done on staunch nationalists, sexists, and psychopathic behavior personalities that tend to conclude that genetic elements are to blame for such behaviors among certain groups of people (Fuentes, 2016).
Additionally, the proof of xenophonia, inequalities in wealth distribution, sexism, and bigotry have been associated with racial undertones where a dominant race would subdue another to take advantage by discriminating against the dominated (Downes & Machery, 2013). The naturalness of bigotry is henceforth, argued out by pundits of human nature as a genetically transferred trait from generations before that practice racism. As Fuentes (2016) affirms, “we are all a little bit racist” based on the fact that we all align with the position that is taken by our racial identity, at least for the most part.
Anthropological evidence points to the fact that human nature has a role to play in racial attitudes seen in the world today. According to Downes and Machery (2013), primitive societies consisted of tribes that fought against one another for food, territory, and dominance. The tribe came first before tribes formed villages and became communities united by language (Nelson, 2019). Similar sentiments presented by Fuentes (2016) also infer that historical proof shows that people in the ancient times aligned based on the language that they spoke rather than the color of their skin. In other words, racism in the past would be what is in modern times known as tribalism. Additionally, anthropological pieces of evidence suggest that religious records show that Hebrews of the Christian Bible considered Romans and Greeks people of different races even though they were both caucasian (Abdel-Fattah, 2016). In a literal sense, skin color did not become a racial distinction until modern times (Downes & Machery, 2013). History proves that the ancients thought of different linguistic dialects as constituting different races. As such, it did not matter what skin color one was provided they spoke a different language as their native language then they were considered to be of a different racial makeup (Nelson, 2019).
Wright (2012), vehemently refutes the position by Nelson (2019) on the possibility that racism is a natural trait of humanity. In Wright’s view, it is erroneous to claim that evolutionary adaptations offer an instinctive inclination to bigotry. However, Wright (2020) is quick to acknowledge that human beings are inherently group-oriented where they are inclined to align with their kind. In a study of the brain, White people’s amygdala increases activity when a black person is in sight. This part of the brain, Wright explains, is responsible for generating emotion specifically fear when the body is under threat. However, that is a mere suggestion that people are inherently racist and not proof of biological evidence of racism in Whites. Accordingly, Oliver (2020) suggests that the inclination to a group is hinged on the psychological assumption of an individual belonging to an in-group while at the same time considering others outside the group as members of the “out-group.” Further, the out-group cannot simply be defined by racial differences since people of different races identify with religion excluding others who do not identify with their religious ideologies. Hence, Oliver (2020), and Abdel-Fattah (2016) both acknowledge that it is this in-group – out-group relationship that is confused for inherent racism.
Therefore, it is from the construct of social groups that it can be effectively inferred that racism is a social construct and not a category that is inherently correlated with patterns of fear, hatred, or mistrust. However, racism becomes a social group construct when society finds meaningful attributes to attach to such undertones (Wright, 2012). As Fuentes (2016) explains, historical injustice, inequality, and discrimination against people of color in the United States have the implication of ingraining the ideology among citizens that race is an issue that warrants attention. Recent events in the United States following protests against the death of George Floyd – a black male killed in the hands of white police officers – is evidence of Fuentes (2016) assertions that systemic and generational injustice meted on the African-American people in the United States has had a long-term impact in conditioning citizens of the country to remain conscious of racism; hence, become aware and predisposed to racist attitudes. Consequently, racism is flaunted as a biological trait erroneously when it should be regarded as a learned behavior, instead (Nelson, 2019).
Undoubtedly, the concept of human nature continues to baffle scholars in various fields such as neuroscience (Wright, 2012), psychology (D'Eon, 2019), and sociology (Fuentes, 2016) where the main concerns are on developing a consensus on whether nature or nurture is responsible for racist traits. From the debate presented, however, the majority of the sources presented herein lean towards the refutation of the ideology that racism is an inherent state of being (Abdel-Fattah, 2016; Nelson, 2019; Wright, 2012). Hence, suggesting that racial inclinations are taught rather than learned. The proponents of biological explanations of racial tendencies are quick to present research that does not irrefutably prove the link between nature and racist traits (Fuentes, 2016). That notwithstanding, the consensus among a considerable scope of scholars discussed herein suggest that systemic inequality and consistent discrimination is the core reason for the existence of racism, particularly in the United States of America and by extension the rest of the world (Abdel-Fattah, 2016; Fuentes, 2016). Focussing on racism as a human condition brings to focus the consideration of what it means to define the human condition. Going by the definition of the Cambridge Dictionary presented earlier, human nature is devoid of choice.
In other words, to brand racism, as human nature would imply that people do not have a choice on whether they can be racist. On the contrary, however, Abdel-Fattah (2016) disproves this position by presenting examples where people of different racial backgrounds have intermarried as well as interfaith couples that have overcome both religious and racial differences to come together and raise a family. Put in context, the human condition is more of a cultural aspect than it is a biological construct (Downes & Machery, 2013). In other words, what Downes and Machery (2013) claim is that people are indoctrinated into their cultural practices through symbolic interaction as well as social learning. These theoretical constructs are responsible for cultivating attitudes and behaviors that serve to entrench racist dispositions if racism is culturally motivated. Nelson (2019) acknowledges the error of relying on the theory of evolution proposed by Charles Darwin, which he attributes to having contributed largely to the entrenched racial attitudes that are witnessed in modern times. He adds that by depicting black people as lower creatures in their evolution hierarchy comparing them to primates against the refined caucasian who has attained the cycle of evolution. It is such scientific positions that Nelson regards scientific demagogy.
In understanding human nature, therefore, it is critical to consider that what is considered natural is a trait that cannot be manipulated; hence, unchangeable (Cambridge Dictionary, 2020). Racism, on the other hand, presents hurdles in its eradication process but not impossibilities. In this regard, to consider that racism if human nature would be, in itself, adopting a defeatist attitude towards the eradication of racism. In other words, branding racism as human nature is an admission that racism is here to stay and there is nothing that can be done to eradicate it. However, human nature is consistent only where social-cultural interactions are designed to encourage or discourage the behavior. What is natural, therefore, is contingent on the understanding that is placed or inculcated as an acceptable practice or otherwise (Downes & Machery, 2013).
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