Many people, I’m sure, have asked themselves this question: Is some  racism built into our DNA or at least is it something we acquire through reading, personal experience or family tradition?

It’s been more than two decades since three social psychologists invented the Implicit Association Test that said we Americans favor white over black, young over old, thin over fat, straight over gay and able over disabled. You can take the test by Googling Project Implicit. I gave up part way through because it was too hard to fathom what personal thoughts it wants to judge.

But eventually, I believe, we all arrive back at the question that’s the headline for today’s column: Are We All Racists Deep Inside?

Michael Sheerer, Presidential Fellow at Chapman University, and a scholar on that question says:

“For centuries the arc of the moral universe has been bending toward justice as a result of changing people’s explicit behaviors and beliefs. Although bias and prejudice still exist, they are not remotely as bad as a mere half a century ago. We ought to acknowledge such progress and put our energies into figuring out what we have been doing right — and do more of it.”

You know from my previous columns I disagree and believe we do continue to have institutional racism of the heavy-duty kind that’s not being mitigated..

The Urban Institute is a non-profit research agency that has chewed over the facts of racism in America, separated from opinion or undocumented information. It says:

“Throughout this country’s history, the hallmarks of American democracy – opportunity, freedom, and prosperity – have been largely reserved for white people through the intentional exclusion and oppression of people of color. The deep racial and ethnic inequities that exist today are a direct result of structural racism: the historical and contemporary policies, practices, and norms that create and maintain white supremacy.”

Steven Roberts, director of the Stanford Social Concepts Lab, writes that “People often define racism as disliking or mistreating others on the basis of race. That definition is wrong. Racism is a system of advantage based on race. It is a hierarchy. It is a pandemic. Racism is so deeply embedded within U.S. minds and U.S. society that it is virtually impossible to escape.”

And maybe not just us. Studies done worldwide show that humans have a tendency to like people who are just like themselves. That they are likely to treat people from outside of their social circles less favorably.

One study I read for this column shocked me. It found that black children are better at recognizing white faces than white children are at recognizing black faces.(Children’s Ability to Recognize Other Children’s Faces. Saul Feinman and Doris R. Entwisle.

When the Public Religion Research Institute — a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy — did its American racism study it found that more than half of white Americans reported having “low” (18%) or “modest” (34%) affinity for people of different racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. More than one-third (36%) reported having “moderate” affinity for these groups, while only 13% feel “high” affinity toward them.

Maybe the best summation comes from John Allen, president of the Brookings Institution think-tank:

“Slavery was America’s ‘original sin.’ It was not solved by the framers of the U.S. Constitution, nor was it resolved by the horrendous conflict that was the American Civil War. It simply changed its odious form and continued the generational enslavement of an entire strata of American society.“




Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

One reply on “Are We All Racists Deep Inside?”

  1. NO. Racism is NOT in our DNA. It is a learned behavior which comes from the environment one is exposed to from birth. If you were to take a group of newborns of various races and ethnic backgrounds and raise them under very specific conditions, they would all share the same belief system. The wonderful musical SOUTH PACIFIC has a song, “You’ve got To Be Carefully Taught” which sums it up in a short, simple way. (You all should listen to it or read the lyrics.) But what all the deep-thinking, Ivory Tower, social scientists with their carefully crafted (often “white-guilt” -based) studies keep missing or ignoring is the real culprit. That culprit is the original generator of discrimination, hatred, and death and distruction. What is it ?? ORGANIZED RELIGION. For more than 2-thousand years, the World has been divided up into exclusive camps which claim to be the best or only way to live. Holy Wars, then and now, have killed billions. Religious dogma all across the spectrum translates to racial and ethnic hatred. (The Dutch Reform Church contained scripture which said G-d created he Black man to serve Whites. ) We see it today..from the Middle East to Asia to Eastern Europe to right here. Think about how many “racist” groups (or armies) wrap themselves in the myth they’re on a mission for G-D. Now I’m not saying “Religion” is bad or wrong. I AM saying if we are ever to eliminate racism and racial hate we must take a good look at the fundamentals or our belief systems. “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught.”

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