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Racism as a primal instinct. 
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Post Racism as a primal instinct.
I’d like to briefly state who I am and why I care about racism before delving into the subject matter. I’m a writer who crafts tales of literary fiction inspired by my observations of human nature, and although I’m not well known or well paid, I do have a couple of novels out on the market, along with an essay, 'BIPOC? Now isn’t really a good time for such a thing. Or maybe… it is.' https://www.amazon.com/dp/B094463KYM recently published in book form. A student of human nature cannot help but know of all the great, good, and wonderful things that people are capable of, and I care about that sort of thing, I also care that the archaic and infantile institution of racism could prevent humanity from ever realizing its full potential for good. I feel too, that there is more to racism than what it appears to be on the surface, and so taking a deeper look at it from an obscure angle might prove useful.
Human beings are to some degree ‘hardwired’ towards certain behaviors at a primal level. As evolved as we have become, people still retain a bit of primal instinct. Take stage-fright for example. Stage-fright is the aversion to performing or speaking in front of a large group of people and is an instinctual survival mechanism that goes back to the beginning of time. Early people didn’t display themselves unprotected because bad things could happen to them. They could be a meal for some sort of beast or captured by an enemy tribe.
Elements of primal instinct are also present in our interactions with other people. Way back in the early days of humanity’s evolution, encounters between different peoples, even if of the same ethnic group, were never good. At the very least they meant competition for food and they could develop into situations much worse than that. So, engrained in our brains is that different is bad, and when we contemplate association with people different than what we are accustomed to, we are naturally suspicious that we may come to some harm through such an association.
When our natural suspicion of other people extends to people of other ethnic groups, we think, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m a racist’, and then most people usually react to that thought in one of two ways, they either try to compensate, to prove to themselves that they’re not racist, or they seek justification of their thoughts by conjuring into their minds imaginings of unsavory stereotypes. Neither is good, it’s better to just relax and understand that we are all naturally predisposed to be wary of people different than ourselves, basically, we are all born racists. It’s kind of weird, but if a person accepts that all of humanity, including themselves, is inherently racist, it frees a person. Because if racist thoughts are just a thing of primal instinct, we can choose to shrug those thoughts off as not really our own, and then there is no personal responsibility or liability connected to them, and so there is also no need to compensate for them or justify them. With such a realization it is then easy to see all people as individuals, and to judge all people as individuals, with such judgement based solely on their character and deeds. With that, whether or not an individual shares your ancestry becomes immaterial.



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Tue May 04, 2021 5:03 pm
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Post Re: Racism as a primal instinct.
Really interesting, Dhight. We could probably explore the topic more, but right now I'll just comment that, many times, I find charges of racism don't address constructively our very real struggle with the primal adaptation that produces it. I think we at least need to elaborate each time we're inclined to pin the label on a person, group, or idea. The people who display a confederate flag bumper sticker with the words, "Heritage, not Hate," are telling us they're not racists. It won't do any good to say back, "Yes, you are." A dialogue is needed.



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Fri May 07, 2021 7:03 am
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Post Re: Racism as a primal instinct.
Dhight wrote:
A student of human nature cannot help but know of all the great, good, and wonderful things that people are capable of, and I care about that sort of thing, I also care that the archaic and infantile institution of racism could prevent humanity from ever realizing its full potential for good.
Human beings are to some degree ‘hardwired’ towards certain behaviors at a primal level. As evolved as we have become, people still retain a bit of primal instinct. Take stage-fright for example. Stage-fright is the aversion to performing or speaking in front of a large group of people and is an instinctual survival mechanism that goes back to the beginning of time. Early people didn’t display themselves unprotected because bad things could happen to them. They could be a meal for some sort of beast or captured by an enemy tribe.

When our natural suspicion of other people extends to people of other ethnic groups, we think, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m a racist’, and then most people usually react to that thought in one of two ways, they either try to compensate, to prove to themselves that they’re not racist, or they seek justification of their thoughts by conjuring into their minds imaginings of unsavory stereotypes. Neither is good, it’s better to just relax and understand that we are all naturally predisposed to be wary of people different than ourselves, basically, we are all born racists.

There's a lot of common sense in what you say here, and a sensible approach to our implicit bias against those who are "other." But I want to put in a few words for complication.

First, another primal instinct is to prefer dominance, and the real issue with racism is not the wariness of difference but the inherited fears and assumptions about dominance. Lincoln said one race or the other was going to have power over the other, and he would rather it was Whites. But where did that inevitability come from? Why is it not possible for groups to peacefully coexist, as it was envisioned in the Constitution that the states would do? So we not only need to be wary of reaction based on perceived difference, and try not to get defensive about the ethics of that, but we also need to watch for assumptions of inevitable conflict. In my view that is what the real worry about racism is: institutions that assume a zero-sum conflictual relationship, and a mentality that justifies such institutions. When Trump says, "You're not going to have a country anymore," he is implying Us and Them and the country going from control by Us to control by Them.

Which brings me to my second complication. We construct those categories of Us and Them and we perpetuate the divisions by choice. I can remember when people voted against a Catholic candidate for president just because We could not trust Them. Does anybody think that way anymore about Protestantism and Catholicism? Probably yes, but the tendency has subsided dramatically and the Archie Bunkers of America are pretty likely to have friends who are Polish or Italian or Irish, or even in-laws who are. So who says the implicit racial bias we find today will still be there in 40 years? If TV shows change and Van Jones is as much a part of the scene as Tucker Carlson, might most of the society stop seeing color, for real and not just in their claims? Might Black and White become just one more category of diversity, like hair color or accent or medical issues?

Dhight wrote:
Elements of primal instinct are also present in our interactions with other people. Way back in the early days of humanity’s evolution, encounters between different peoples, even if of the same ethnic group, were never good. At the very least they meant competition for food and they could develop into situations much worse than that. So, engrained in our brains is that different is bad, and when we contemplate association with people different than what we are accustomed to, we are naturally suspicious that we may come to some harm through such an association.

Yes, outside groups are instinctively perceived as threatening. But we know that children base their conclusions about who is an "outsider" on what adults react to. If language differences are about Us and Them, then children mistrust those with a different language. But in modern Europe, where nearly everyone speaks at least two languages, and most with a college education speak three or more, children just don't get that message. So I think we have to be careful about categorizing differences as "primal". Maybe they are just differences.

Dhight wrote:
It’s kind of weird, but if a person accepts that all of humanity, including themselves, is inherently racist, it frees a person. Because if racist thoughts are just a thing of primal instinct, we can choose to shrug those thoughts off as not really our own, and then there is no personal responsibility or liability connected to them, and so there is also no need to compensate for them or justify them. With such a realization it is then easy to see all people as individuals, and to judge all people as individuals, with such judgement based solely on their character and deeds. With that, whether or not an individual shares your ancestry becomes immaterial.

I like this. Especially "shrug those thoughts off as not really our own." I think we do this a lot. We process primitive emotions through filters created by social pressure and reason. If that stuff is working well, we can easily dismiss coveting a neighbor's car, or feeling irritated by a spouse's requests, or not feeling like going to work today. Those thoughts are "not really our own" in the sense that emotions can include transitory reactions that have nothing to do with how our understanding of life tells us to put our values and investments.



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Dhight
Sat May 08, 2021 7:48 pm
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Post Re: Racism as a primal instinct.
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Harry Marks wrote:
There's a lot of common sense in what you say here, and a sensible approach to our implicit bias against those who are "other." But I want to put in a few words for complication.

First, another primal instinct is to prefer dominance, and the real issue with racism is not the wariness of difference but the inherited fears and assumptions about dominance. Lincoln said one race or the other was going to have power over the other, and he would rather it was Whites. But where did that inevitability come from? Why is it not possible for groups to peacefully coexist, as it was envisioned in the Constitution that the states would do? So we not only need to be wary of reaction based on perceived difference, and try not to get defensive about the ethics of that, but we also need to watch for assumptions of inevitable conflict. In my view that is what the real worry about racism is: institutions that assume a zero-sum conflictual relationship, and a mentality that justifies such institutions. When Trump says, "You're not going to have a country anymore," he is implying Us and Them and the country going from control by Us to control by Them.


That does complicate my train of thought, Harry. It becomes complicated because the strongest of instincts present in human beings is survival, and intrinsic to survival in the minds of human beings is dominance, dominance over the environment, dominance over the beasts, and dominance over other people. Black and white could have coexisted after the end of slavery, to the great benefit of both, but as you point out, we live with the inherited fears and assumptions of dominance.

Perhaps Lincoln would have preferred a peaceful and prosperous coexistence between black and white, but knew it to be impossible, because the 'laws' of human nature wouldn't allow it. Perhaps he knew that people are more prone to spontaneous action based on emotion rather than reason. Perhaps he knew that a thousand voices could map out a bright future for black and white together, but that they would all be wiped out by one voice of dissent preying on emotion. There is always anger in the minds of the formerly oppressed, and Lincoln knew that it was inevitable that somebody would play on that anger to meet their own ends, and when the formerly oppressed were sufficiently roused, another voice, or quite possibly the same voice, would point out that the formerly oppressed should remain oppressed because of their outbursts of violent emotion.

Now, over a hundred and fifty years later, we see that being played out before us, Americans used as pawns to destroy their own home, blacks the puppets of the left (hardcore socialists) and whites the puppets of the right (softcore socialists). We were at our moment of realization in our hopes for our country, opportunity was available to all, people from different ethnic groups had not only learned to get along, but had discovered they shared common beliefs and goals and were becoming appreciative and supportive of each other. That wasn't a good thing for people who desired control to meet their own ends though, and so, we find ourselves where we are now.

Trump was a wildcard, and it took me quite awhile to figure out who he was. It's a shame he couldn't articulate his thoughts better. I believe when he said "You're not going to have a country anymore," He was stating it's "Us" against "Them", but he wasn't pointing his finger at the left or any other group, he was pointing his finger at the entire governmental structure, both the left and the right, as being merely two warring factions fighting over who will entirely dominate America and all her people. Trump was actually a voice for America's promise, and it was probably a good thing that that he wasn't able to clearly articulate his thoughts, because it forced people to use their powers of reason, and through that, some people understood that he was not a champion of the right, but the champion of a free people, as evidenced by the broad spectrum of people who heard his message, black, Hispanic, Asians, the right, the left, he enjoyed a significant degree of support from all of our different peoples. Trump is gone, and I doubt he'll be back, and it's probably a good thing, because we must to learn to reason for ourselves, which is a scary prospect.

It seems to me that an appreciation of reason has fallen out of vouge with the people of today, as an author, it's something I've confronted at every turn. Gone, it seems, are tales that evoke thoughts in the reader that they may not otherwise have thought, having been replaced by an endless regurgitation of tales about vampires, werewolves, magicians, and young women who find their peace by becoming submissive sex slaves to abusive mates. I write 'old school' literature, tales which have subtly woven through them things which make the reader think long after the book has been read, and as a writer, I'm drowning in a pool of obscurity, while a woman who writes of a young woman being screwed in the butt by a narcissistic billionaire, and enjoying it, sells 50 million copies of her trash.

I worked on my most recent novel, An Unlikely Messiah, at times until my brain physically hurt, not as in a headache, but as in a muscle that was overworked, and then queried all of the literary agents in New York City. You know what I got in return? Nothing. The handful of agencies that were kind enough to reply with a formal rejection notice all stated the same thing, that the story just didn’t fit within any of the market driven genres. I suppose I could have spun a tale where the hero/heroine is captured by a group of lesbian vampires and gay werewolves, then held in anticipation of some moonlit ritual orgy, and I would have had literary agents beating a path to my door, but that’s not what I write, I write tales that are different.

With An Unlikely Messiah I created a cast of characters that represented all of the vulgarities of human nature, yet also all of beauty of the human spirit, and placed them in a rather bizarre and twisted tale which pit stereotypes, the frailty of religion, the sickness of power, and the blindness of the masses against the freedom of spirit and unbiased thought, in a battle played out before the reader so that they might choose which better resonates with them. Of course, that’s all very subtle, and to the casual reader it’s just a strange, yet interesting and entertaining tale.

Anyway, I keep trying, I keep trying to scream above the din, even though there’s times I feel insane for doing so, because if we all get tired and give up, what will there be left then?



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Sun May 09, 2021 10:10 am
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