“The only difference between man and man all the world over is one of degree, and not of kind, even as there is between trees of the same species. Where in is the cause for anger, envy or discrimination?” – Mahatma Gandhi
Everyone wants to see social change within his or her own lifetime. A perfect example of this is racial equality. Fixing race relations has a deadline: by the end of my life or even by the end of my children’s lives. This is a noble undertaking; however, I believe it is naive and foolish.
People are both incredibly adaptable and incredibly stubborn. It’s amazing how much punishment a human can endure within their own life and still come out the other end stronger and ready to face the next challenge. Yet it is amazing how hard it can be for someone to shed a prejudice that is deeply engrained. Humans are social beings. Our ancient ancestors lived in close-knit tribes and each individual was key to the tribe’s survival. Tribes competed for resources and battle amongst rival tribes was common. This resulted in two mindsets: (1) unfamiliar people were seen as possible threats and (2) tribe members identified strongly with the tribe.
Humans are social animals and we crave interactions. On a base instinctual level, humans want to self identify with a group. And although humans are very adaptable we resist change. Change is unfamiliar, making it dangerous. The human might not be equipped both mentally and physically to deal with this new environment or challenge. This does not bode well for survival and like all other living organisms a human’s ultimate goal is to survive.
Skin pigment has become the ultimate identifier for human beings. And its not a human fabrication. Skin pigment is determined by where you live or where your ancestors lived. Having darker skin in sunnier climates has obvious benefits. Having lighter skin in less sunny climates has benefits as well. Due to natural selection, humans have developed different skin tones. For most of human history, the only exposure that most humans had was with people from their immediate geographic regions. Therefore, until recently, humans have had very little exposure to people from different parts of the globe.
Every semi-educated person today understands the slow process of globalization. Now we have reached the zenith. Air travel and communications have changed the world tremendously. Because globalization has happened so rapidly, cultural tendencies are still prevalent based on ancestral heritage. I will be the first person to argue that humans are all 9.9% the same. But this .1% difference has a huge impact.
People want to self identify and they are skeptical of anything they don’t initally consider normal. People recognize different cultures, and for the most part these cultures are divided by skin color. People, I argue, instinctually fear these differences in culture. They become attached to their way of life. They can’t imagine anything else. Humans also fear unfamiliar cultures as a threat to their resources. If there are “new” people there will be less resources. Humans resist a change in culture or way of living, and because skin color is the most visible sign of these different cultures, we resist people with a different skin color.
Racism is ignorance. The idea that anyone can be categorized based on the color of his or her skin is an ignorant way of thinking. There have been zero studies that indicate skin color or geographical heritage has any impact on any quantifiable traits (i.e. intelligence).
Humans DO NOT posses an instinct to fear someone of a different skin color or any other physical characteristic such as facial structure. Ask anyone who grew up either in a multicultural environment or in an environment where they have had life-long interactions with people of a different race. But unfortunately most people today don’t live in multicultural areas. Because of this, people of a difference race are still considered different, and to some, are coded as a potential threat.
But as I said earlier, humans are amazingly adaptive. And this world is much less divided by race then it was even fifty years ago. And it is only going to get better. We live in the information age and people have the ability to gain access to information beyond what their family or friends tell them. People are shedding their deep cultural ties. Humans are learning that just because someone lives differently than they, that this is not a bad thing. Thankfully humans are learning to embrace a variety of cultural norms, thus bettering their own lives.
There will come a time when race no longer matters. The day will come when it is the norm for every child to grow up in a world where race has no impact on the type of person someone is. Skin color will no longer be viewed as different; the difference will be what makes it normal. People will no longer suffer due to the natural pigment of their skin. But we are fighting a long history of human social interactions. Thanks to the information age our history is being reversed relatively quickly, but it will probably not be in one lifetime. It probably won’t even be in two. Understandably, we want it do be done as quickly as possible, but this change has to happen organically. People have to learn for themselves that there is nothing to fear of someone who is different. Fighting our instincts is doable, but it takes time. This is not a popular way of thinking but I believe it is necessary to reach racial equality. Humans have to take an honest look at themselves and their past if there is hope of moving forward.