[As many of you are aware, we invite our readers to become Guest Authors and submit articles to us for posting on our blog. The guidelines for the submitted articles are contained in our Post No. 34. (http://theviewfromoutsidemytinywindow.blogspot.com/2008/08/post-no-34-opportunity-to-serve-as.html.) Leading up to the election of Sen. Obama, there was much discussion in our country about the effect of race, and where we as a nation have come in terms of dealing with that issue. The following article has been submitted by one of our regular readers on the subject. Enjoy.]
© 2008, D. W. Haire
Every so often, I am reminded of something my Mother said to me. It was odd because it was "out of the blue," and had nothing to do with anything going on around us, or the conversation we were having. These are her words as well as I can recall them:
"I don't think I'm prejudiced but, if I am walking down the street and a black man approaches, I get very nervous and afraid."
Years later, my Father (a couple of years before he passed away) was relating a story that seemed important to him. We had been talking about various things and he was remembering a period when he was frustrated at work. There was something about a meeting and it may have been when he was leaving the company to start his own business (a small bike shop). The details are unclear, but I remember his words, and the emotion behind them, when he told me what he said to his supervisor.
"I never liked your smiling Jewish face."
My father never uttered a word of prejudice regarding anyone or any group in my presence in all the years prior to that. It was another "out of the blue" remark that sticks in my mind.
The following is not scientific. It does not have extensive research to support it, nor does it provide any references. It is strictly opinion, and my own opinion at that. You can disagree or not, as you see fit.
It will likely remain my opinion regardless of your argument unless you can show me a scientific, well researched, paper that refutes it. Even then, I will be the judge of that proof. This is not something I have just popped up with. It is opinion which is based upon what logic, knowledge, and observations I have gathered over the years. In short, it works for me. Let's start with my hypothesis and work from there.
I believe that hate and fear of others began with early man as a matter of survival. That is, prejudice and bigotry were survival techniques that actually worked to ensure the survival of individuals and of tribes. I am not condoning bigotry or prejudice, but rather I am taking an objective view, and positing a reason for their existence and persistence throughout the history of our species.
Early humans were hunter-gatherers. They banded together initially in family units and quickly into tribes or clans. It was necessary to do this in order to insure survival. It was easier for men to hunt in groups. More berries, grains, and wood (for fuel) can be gathered by a group than an individual. A family might survive on its own, but its chances are increased when it becomes part of a group. So tribes and clans are natural extensions of family and increase the odds of survival.
The first clans, as the name implies, came from family. But inbreeding would quickly destroy the group within a few generations. It is necessary to expand a gene pool. Therein lays the first dilemma - who to bring into the clan and where to find them.
To answer the question of where to find new blood, we turn to the prevailing lifestyle - hunting and gathering. For all practical purposes, men hunted and women (and children, often) gathered. It made sense. It worked. Clans migrated, as would tribes, following the herd animals they hunted. They would have to run into other clans from time to time. These clans were rivals for the food resources; game and vegetation and water. It is likely they would skirmish from time to time. The result would be one clan would be run off or wiped out.
Only they wouldn't be wiped out, would they? The women were likely to be spared because women are a resource. They provide an expanded gene pool that is non-threatening, add to a work force, and provide comfort, pleasure, and children. And they are compliant. They can be tamed (contrary to movie and novels).
Men are not resources, generally speaking. They are competition. They resist domestication. In a primitive society, the basic ingredients of power are strength and boldness. It is, therefore, more likely that women would be saved than men when a clash between clans occurs. It was not uncommon, for thousands of years, for the winning side to murder all the males, including male children, and take the women and female children.
From close breeding and a shallow gene pool, the tribe takes on common characteristics. Also, people really don't follow the "opposites attract" maxim for the most part. They are attracted to those who most look like themselves. Put another way, they are their own standard of beauty. Since the tribe has similar physical characteristics, outsiders would seem to them as "unalike."
It continues to today. I am reminded of an exchange in the O.J. Simpson trial where Judge Ito becomes unhappy when he is likened to a forensic investigator who is Chinese. To Judge Ito, the difference in physical characteristics between Japanese and Chinese was obvious, not so to the prosecutor who made the mistake. Differences may be subtle between Hutu and Tutsi but each is readily capable of recognizing the other.
In order to survive, primitive man needed to quickly determine friend or foe. And the biological answer was the precursor to prejudice. If you look like me and mine, you are my "Friend", if you do not, you are the "Enemy." Bigotry and racism also play a role in that they offer support for the belief of success in battling the enemy. If you perceive those that do not look like you as inferior, weaker, and/or less intelligent, then you feel you have an advantage and are more willing to fight.
I have heard many people express the idea that children are born without prejudice, that they learn this from their parents. I disagree. I think we are all born with it in our genetic makeup. Our parents and our peers simply teach us to articulate it, express it, and, all too often, to embrace it.
The question is, can we overcome this and rid humanity of the effects of prejudice and bigotry? Can we get people to expand their instinctual perception of their "tribe" to include all people of the planet? I think we must. Otherwise, that part of our survival instinct will eventually lead to our extinction. I know that I have learned to suppress my own prejudice, which is all I think is needed. I believe that when we understand why we think a certain way, we can control it.
© 2008, by D.W. Haire
Opportunity to Serve as "Guest Author"
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