History isn’t only a thing of right and wrong, but it serves as evidence of what did work and what didn’t. What we can learn and we cannot and what we believe is changeable and what is constant. There are things that worked in the past but don’t work today and vice versa.
In the book “Social Dominance” by Sidaneous and Prato, they state that much of racism comes from the subconscious desire among people in a position of power to collude with others in a position of power against the members of low power groups. This works to benefit the stronger groups by allowing them to remain as the dominant social groups and linger over the privileges that it brings. Similar behavior can be found in primate troops.
Racism is prejudice and prejudice is bias. Bias is learned. You can definitely unlearn bias which means you can unlearn racism. But to do such, it takes an incredible amount of conscious effort. One reason this can be true is that humans by nature fear the unknown, the uncertain, and the different.
Evolved traits especially ingroup bias are the essential explanations for racism — this is the IMO the scientific consensus.
Disclaimer: This doesn’t mean race and thus racism in any manifestation is necessarily natural or inevitable. They’re not natural if that means not socially constructed. But for example, a phenomenon in which people who look quite different from family and other ingroups (from which we derive security and esteem) are perceived as “the other”, however, it is quite arguably natural. Natural in being inherent from evolved traits and that is sufficient to produce prejudice and discrimination.
Are humans naturally racist, in an absolute way?
Not at all. It’s worth keeping in mind that race is a social construct only partially based on biological realities. There is very little that can be considered natural in our constructions of race, but if we didn’t have the many of the same people would still be perceived as outgroups because of their apparent differences, however, they are understood. Do the typical signifiers of race need to be important? No. It is not imperative that these be psychologically meaningful categories. For some people, having different hair or eye color would appear to be a meaningful group boundary, but not for others. Same for skin color. It will depend heavily on the developmental context of how inclusive “we” is and on what dimensions the social world is segmented.
On the other hand, the phenomenon of racism has elements that are natural. There are non-socially constructed reasons that other races are easily categorized as outgroups — starting with the family and moving out to tribes, towns, or whatever social group is important, “we” tend to be of the same race and this was all the more true in the past, which is not so easily shaken.
Why is ingroup bias sufficient to produce prejudice and discrimination? Check out the research on minimal group bias if you haven’t. Also, here’s a classic paper arguing that the fundamental driver is indeed ingroup “love” and that outgroup “hate” follows from it.
Here’s an ad hoc translation of the relevant passages in Jürgen Osterhammel’s “Die Verwandlung der Welt: Eine Geschichte des 19.Jahrhunderts:” (pages 1214–1238) about tribalism and race.
Around 1900 the word “race” was commonly used in many languages around the globe. […] At least in the global “West”, which was present on all continents in the age of Imperialism, few doubted the idea that humanity was divided into races, that these races possessed different, biologically induced capabilities and as a result also a different right to autonomously shape their existence. Around 1800 such ideas were thought in only few scholarly study-rooms, even if practice in the colonies and transatlantic slave trade didn’t ignore people’s skin-colors. Around 1880 [these ideas] were a basic element of the collective imaginary of western societies. […] The racist rhetoric und practices of the national socialists after 1933 attracted greater disconcertment in the global public than it would have around the turn of the century […]. Around 2000 racism was globally discredited, its promotion declared illegal in many countries, any claim to scientificity considered laughable. Rise and fall of racism as a force shaping history fill the comparatively short period between ca. 1860 and 1945. […]
Racism as an extreme form of a far spread ethnocentrism that saw the most important markers of difference between groups of people not in changeable cultural behaviors, but in unchangeable biologically inherited bodily characteristics developed in early modernity, when contacts between societies intensified across the globe. But this racism wasn’t the dominant worldview of europeans, nor of sailors and colonial conquerers far into the 18th century. Every quote from a travelog that could be read as a derogatory comment on non-European peoples is weighed up by expressions of respect and admiration. […] Racist dispositions but not yet race theories developed in the milieu of the Atlantic slave trade, American plantations, and the immigrant societies of the western hemisphere, which were ordered according to skin-color. […]
Racism wasn’t the cause of slavery, but served more and more as a justification during the late 18th and especially the first half of the 19th century. On many frontiers of European expansion differences between settlers and natives were interpreted culturally rather than biologically far into the 19th century. […] In the last quarter of the 18th century European intellectuals began to classify and compare as a scientific method. It was suggested to divide humans into “types”. […]
For the time since the 1850s one can speak of a dominant racism. This racism was unevenly spread across the western world and its colonies but was absent nowhere and one of the most influential worldviews of the age. […] To look down on “inferior races” with at best benevolent condescension became natural. Extreme racist utterances that were unthinkable in 1820 and would have caused scandals in 1960 could be made openly. […] After the first world war scientific respectability of racial classifications started its decline, at least in Great Britain and the USA. […] In the 1920s, when the [societal] position of African Americans started to improve, an exterminatory antisemitism brewed up in Germany and parts of eastern Europe, especially Romania […].
Racism is not just a disposition or a feeling of despise, but a political ideology that has its roots starting in the Spanish Reconquista and ideology of Limpieza de Sangre (purity of the blood). The biological racism that most people think of today when they hear the term ‘racism’ is a product of the European scientific discourse of the late 18th century through the 19th century.
Is racism just an extension of tribalism?
I say yes. Therefore, racism isn’t a one and done thing. You can eradicate the current form of racism, but it will find its way to evolve in another form. Racism isn’t taught, but it is an extension and byproduct of tribalism.
Tribes are usually composed of groups of very closely related and similar individuals, usually with a shared lineage and visions tracing back to a family unit. Just like all constitutional expressions can be markers for telling similarity or relatedness, so too — it stands to reason — would skin color be a mark to show belonging to a tribe, as an extension of the family.
As tribes expanded and branched into new territory, it became impossible for everyone to get to “know” everyone intimately, and thus to trust they were not a threat through shared tribal identity. In such a scenario, the same constitutional markers would be indicators of distant relatedness, and, more importantly, of shared social mores like, (religion, values, custom, hierarchy, manners) which had remained united while the blood relatedness was diluted. Thus, recognition of “belonging” to a tribe or a social community became tied to things which we now associate with race, and at a certain point, they were probably very useful in that purpose and conveyed a benefit to the survival of the members which could readily identify allies.
Of course, the further that the populations expanded, and traveled, and started divergent social systems, the less useful these types of indicators have become as a basis of the statement “that person and myself belong to the same community”, and of course why racism is really very silly in modern times.
In summary, racism is based on phenotypic or constitutional recognition of tribal unity, but with the modern divergence of blood and culture, it is of little practical use toward its original purpose. This makes a lot of sense. Lots of people are uncomfortable around people with varying beliefs, values, and goals. It’s not always apparent who shares these traits, but features associated with a certain race are often easy visual indicators that someone is different from you. Whether or not that person actually shares your values can’t be determined as quickly as what their race is, so race serves as a kind of old school cheat-sheet.
I’d say that tribalism boils down to the idea that outsiders are bad.
I’d say racism is the idea that outsiders are bad, coupled with the idea that people of a different race are outsiders.
Here’s a well-detailed example, according to a Reddit user.
If carrots grew next to carrots from the same mother plant, they aren’t as aggressive for food and make sure to leave nutrients for a weaker sibling. It is the natural urge of all things to kill others, for the primary focus is to live. But, species as a whole do not benefit from this nor does the individual being.
So, in a sense, just like the carrots, we are kinder to our siblings, but this branches out further to be our tribe and thus our race. I believe racism not to be hatred or rejection, but a lack of brotherly companionship towards those who are not our brothers; it is how we originally are.
However, unlike carrots and mostly everything else in nature, we have the capacity to realize that we don’t benefit from killing things that are unlike for that reason, us even if not all of us do. You say “It is the natural urge of all things to kill others, for the primary focus is to live.
” So are you saying we kill others to achieve our goal of living, or is it the other way around? Or are we killing for some other reason? One doesn’t necessitate the other, and we have the ability and responsibility to understand this and help others to do so. Also, what if you’re blind, how to do you tell races apart in your day to do life? Dave Chappelle showed us how that can work out for you in his first episode. Whereas, if another plant grows next to a carrot the carrot’s life may be threatened, or they may have a symbiotic relationship and if that’s the case, the carrot would not kill the “other”.
The point being, racism is an insult to the evolutional processes that developed the carrots' ability to detect and fight off intrusive plants, and not to mention our ability to see the ultimate meaninglessness of race difference.
So, in America, conservatives have a prominent track record of supporting racist point of views than liberals, right? And as I pointed out, racism may stem from an application of evolutional, Darwinian ideas. Conservatives also make a lot of statements about the economy that make it sound like Darwin’s idea of the way nature works is how they think the economy ought to work. A huge number of conservatives are also open creationists, and many are not just one, but all of the things I previously mentioned.
In the other hand, the phenomenon of racism has elements that are natural. There are non-socially constructed reasons that other races are easily categorized as outgroups — starting with the family and moving out to tribes, towns, or whatever social group is important, “we” tend to be of the same race and this was all the more true in the past, which is not so easily shaken.
I think racism is a twisted version of tribalism. In tribalism, you have to belong to a similar culture and follow similar values of your group to support you. Racism is very superficial as it only looks at something like race. Therefore, racism per se is an inevitable byproduct of the society we live in. Much like genetics, it is mutable in all sorts of way, but there’s only one true genuine form it exists.
You can’t save everyone, the best you can do is try. We all may be victims of circumstances and slaves of a new world system. That’s the price of being alive in the society and the only true escape from it is death and drugs.
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Jürgen Osterhammel’s “Die Verwandlung der Welt: Eine Geschichte des 19.Jahrhunderts:” (pages 1214–1238)
“Social Dominance” by Sidaneous and Prato