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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Programmed to be racist?


Are we all programmed to be racist? Is a degree of racist response endemic in our DNA? I was wondering about this while the Celebrity Big Brother programme row over racism raged last week both in the media and in comments from senior politicians like Gordon Brown.

I have a theory, which I will happily admit to nicking partly from my old pal Missing Neighbour, about the nature of racism and why, despite the fact that our contemporary intelligence would counter such insane prejudice, many people are still capable of iterating racist opinions.

The gist is basically that we're predisposed to fear as 'the other' those from visually different tribal backgrounds as ourselves, since back in the day they offered a tangible threat to available resources (ie they'd nick your bint, your grub and then kill you painfully.)

The other stuff - mean Scots, big black cocks, Pakistani corner shops or whatever, is therefore just our civilised minds' attempts to justify the animal brain fear.

Missing Neighbour says that he believes that there is a 'low level anxiety' we all have when we are placed in unfamiliar situations/environments with people we don’t know. We are unable to make rational informed choices about our situation because our conscious mind has so little information to go on.

So what happens next is the good old brain stem (the bit left over from our long gone knuckle dragging days) kicks in and hey presto we turn into a prehistoric fearful raging ape. Obviously this effect varies dramatically from person to person but our primal brain sees change and difference as a threat, especially if the way things are at the moment (as far as our selfish self preserving brain can tell) are just fine and we are ticking along nicely.

On a more macro level racism and many other socially unacceptable behaviours seem to be extreme reactions to human beings being taken outside their comfort zones and the old ‘Its all mine and I am fucking keeping it attitude’ kicks in rather rapidly.

The important thing to remember though, is that we all have frontal lobes to override our animal responses.

This is why most men don't rape all round them, why it is unacceptable to rob other people's stuff and why racism is wrong.

But if you acknowledge the existence of the low level anxiety Missing Neighbour talks about, especially when there are visual cues of 'otherness' around you, like some punter with different coloured skin, or the fact that you aren't in your home environment, then the explanation for that, as I see it, is the animal response.

But it is up to all of us to use the 200,000 years of civilisation and development of our frontal lobes to override such responses.

If you consider Northern Ireland, where both tribes look, behave and think like each other in the same cultural context, or you consider footie crowds, where each side is made up of many different races, visual cues need to be created in order to generate the flight or fight response (kerbside painting, orange order sashes, footie scarves and shirts).

Once otherness is established, then it is up to the individual who feels threatened in themselves to override their animal response. Most of us do. Obviously the chavs of BB, threatened by the 'class' of Shilpa Shetty, haven't managed to do that and responded by seeking solace from their fear in greater numbers - ie bullying.

Is it racist? Yes, of course it is, even if Jade Goody happens to be of part-black inheritance. She wouldn't be the first racist of such a background and white people certainly do not hold a monopoly on racist attitudes.

But primarily, it is fear, safety in numbers, and ignorance that has inspired this bout of bullying. If you wish to ensure that neither you nor your children are racists or develop racist attitudes, then the crucial issue is to prevent your animal brain from taking over when you encounter people you automatically identify as 'other.'

Because if you manage to turn off that response, which is pre-programmed in us all, you are likely to discover that the people inspiring that response are human just like you, friendly just like you, worth knowing just like you and all of a sudden they are no longer 'other', just like you.

kick it on kick.ie

6 comments:

Agent Magenta said...

I don't think Jade is racist, shes just a bit stupid and bitchy. Put any group of girls together like that and you will always get a few nasty comments, nothing to do with race!

Personally, I think Jade was a little bit jealous of Shilpa's good looks and fame!

mellobiafra said...

A BIT stupid!? More than a bloody BIT if you ask me! Forget the charges (and for now they still only are allegations) of racism that Jade is so retroactively ashamed of. Her TOTAL UTTER MORONISM defies catgerorisation! Some new variety of Campbell's Condensed Pig Shit would have to be formulated for that dimwit. Even that wouldn't have the viscosity to illustrate the jaw-dropping imbecility of her drink-driving scumbag 'boyfriend', Jack "What's an Embryo" Tweedy!

All this whining and handwringing about cultural differences and race are irrelevant. In a house where a pair of c-list American celebrities look and sound like BRAIN SURGEONS compared to the native contingent one is forced to face the fact - the BRITISH EDUCATION SYSTEM HAS FAILED.

I'm not getting on my university educated high horse and bemoaning the spelling in TXT messaging or improper use of the apostrophe, we are talking dropped-on-head-as-a-baby dumb.

We let these people drink alcohol, drive cars, play with matches, vote, and even breed. We used to deride the Americans for thinking it uncool to be intelligent. Mon Dieu! 21st Century Britain - people shrivel up in shame at an accusation of racism, but hold their heads high and are proud to be 'Fick as Fuck, a much, much more dangerous scenario.

JC Skinner said...

As a civilisation, we've been pwned.

mellobiafra said...

All Ur Civulization Bases R Mine!

Navigator said...

The "Selfish gene" theory for racism goes as follows:

Racism is the other side of altruism. That is to say, we take care of our siblings, cousins etc. because it is a selfish thing to do. Each of our parents has half of our DNA, each sibling has one-quarter of our DNA andit is our goal to ensure that our genes are successful. therefore, we take care of our siblings - not because we really care for them, we really care for our genes and they have some of our genes.

Conversely we are racist and we don't like those who are only distantly related because there are only limited resources and if those people that don't have much of our genes are successful, then those people that DO have our genes (siblings, etc.) might not do so well.

So, if you are still awake, this is the genetic explanation for racism.


Not saying it is right, though, but it can sometimes bring about a heated debate in a pub.

Caio said...

I thought it was odd that they had big protests in India over it. Do they even get that show there?

Of course, there's no racism in India: just ask any Punjabi.