Racism is not natural. But in America racism has become so common and accepted that it seems like part of the human condition, like love or poverty. Some do not even notice it except in its more extreme forms. But, as Malcolm X discovered in Mecca, racism does not have to be. It is not something we are born with.
Seeing racism as natural allows whites to believe there is little they can do to make society more just. Fighting racism would be like trying to stop the rain. It excuses inaction.
How do we know that racism is not natural?
First, racism is not built into human nature. If it were we would see it in the Bible, we would see it in the Greeks. Both the Jews and the Greeks divided the world into an us and a them, but neither used race to do it: the Jews used religion and the Greeks used language. The colour of your skin meant little to them.
Second, there is no reason for racism to be wired into our brains by evolution: coming across people of other races was rare till the last few thousand years. Not enough time to affect evolution. Europeans did not even think of themselves as “white” till about 1500: race as we know it is a side effect of ocean travel.
Even in America blacks were made into slaves at first because of religion: they were not Christians. Race as an excuse came later, not till the 1660s.
It was only when race became an excuse for keeping blacks as slaves and taking land from the American Indians, only when society was built on skin colour, that racism began to seem part of the “natural” order of things.
The races in America are not “natural” either. Most countries with blacks and whites see mixed-race people as separate, like in Brazil, South Africa or New Orleans under the French. But not in America. There you have the One Drop Rule: if you look at all part black you are seen as all black. So the “black race” has some people who are 90% white!
What Americans see as the races of man and how they feel about them is not something they were born with – it is learned from a society built by slave owners, by people whose relationship with blacks was a thing of whips and chains.
Even now, more than a hundred years after the slaves were freed, whites still look down on blacks like there is something wrong with them. Whites would rather hire a white man with a prison record than a black man without one; the police can still spend more manpower looking for a dog than for a black woman – or shoot an unarmed black man dead with 50 bullets and call it a “mistake” – and be believed! And on and on. This stuff goes against all common sense. It is not one bit natural.
– Abagond, 2009.
- Racism before 1400
- race is social
- What this blog has taught me about white people
- How “race” is different in:
- white people
- Romona Moore – less important to the NYPD than a rich white woman’s dog
- Sean Bell – unarmed black man shot with 50 bullets. By mistake
- The oneness of mankind – Malcolm in Mecca, etc
- The eight stages of genocide