Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Christian Minister Uses Evolutionary Psychology to Justify Racism

Everybody today is a specialist. Learn a couple of multi-syllable words, work out a message that the ignoramuses are dying to hear, and you are guaranteed a publication. A guy who has no idea what literary criticism is about writes an article for The NYTimes bashing literary critics. A bigoted minister thinks that a badly digested reading of Jung qualifies him to publish an article in Psychology Today, arguing that racism is inherent to all human beings.

Banding around words like "archetype" and "evolutionary history," the minister tries to convince the readers that racism is "natural." Whether you are black or white, he says, you are "predisposed" to dislike dark-skinned people:
Racism itself is a consequence of literalizing this universal, (archetypal), instinctive set of associations, not a direct cause. We human beings, regardless of skin color, age, gender, language, culture, and passionately held convictions (or the lack of them) are inherently predisposed to feel relaxed and cheerful in the presence of warm illuminating light, and increasingly anxious and uncomfortable in the midst of cold, impenetrable darkness. We also have a distressing tendency to literalize these associations and apply them "in an unconscious blink of the eye" to skin color. This primary instinctive response to "light" and "dark" in our shared environment and evolutionary history is not racism in itself; it is the unconscious source of racism. It is because it is unconscious that the problem of racism is so ubiquitous, "automatic", and difficult to overcome.
This tortured passage offers a justification to any racist. Of course, all of this is based on insane generalizations that have very little meaning. Just think, though, how many uses evolutionary psychology can be put to by all kinds of bigots. All you have to say to explain your hatred and bigotry is that it's an archetype and a biological imperative. Then you sigh deeply, roll your eyes, and add that as much as you'd love not to be a racist (a male chauvinist, a xenophobe, and anti-Semite, etc.) you simply can't help it because Jung said so. Besides, all those brown people hate themselves too, which means it perfectly OK to hate them.
The progressives in this country have long bemoaned the rejection of the evolution by religious institutions. Little did we know that acceptance of evolution by racist ministers would be a lot scarier.

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Lindsay said...

Oh, for Pete's sake!!

I wonder if this guy knows that not all cultures assign the same moral/emotional valence to white and black as we do?

If he knows, for instance, that in some cultures WHITE is the color of death, of mourning?

White Westerners =! all humans ever to walk the Earth.

Pagan Topologist said...

I read somewhere recently that the concept of race was invented only two or three centuries ago. I was under the impression that this was in one of your posts, but a search here does not turn it up; it must have been elsewhere.

Clarissa said...

I don't think I ever wrote about it. Maybe it was in one of the comments.

el said...

What's scary is the combination of ignorance and hearing these things from one's minister. Had people studied evolution at school and really got the concept, they would laugh at it the way you do. At least, more than now. Studying a bit the history of science at history & biology lessons would help too - Galileo condemned by the Catholic Church, Nazi race theory developing from earlier ones, the justifications for slavery in US, the difference between Darwin’s theory and Darwinism, etc.

José said...


When a child is born is not born with the concept of racism and a practical proof of that is that a small white child/todler will have the same kind of relation with a black person, as a black child will have with a white person.

Personally I don't know if there's a genetic pre-disposition for people of the same colour to get together, but that's another issue.
However the racist fundament that a certain colour is superior to another is an ignorant assumption.

In my opinion, ignorance is the source of everything bad.
When one mentions racism, one often thinks about slavery and being from a country that was one of the major traders of slaves, I can only think that the origin of slavery was not based on the skin colour but on greed, because today we have slavery independently of the skin.

Now, I also think that nowadays this has become a sort of tabboo and often people don't see our differences as something positive.

In my opinion it's great that there are people of different colour, like it's nice to exist thin, fat, tall, short people, or the world would be a bit dull.
And that theory that races will tend to disappear due to mingle it's something that I don't quite agree; a race can even disappear, but new ones will be formed.
Humanity is a moving thing, not static and our evolution cannot be based upon racism, greed, indiference, all results of ignorance.

There are several forms of racism, since the more direct one to the what I'd like to call hypocrit.

Kind regards,


P.S. sorry for some eventual gramatical mistakes

Clarissa said...

Bienvenido al blog, José! Gracias por tus comentarios tan inteligentes y lucidos.

José said...

Hi Clarissa,

I'm not from Bolivia though.

Kind regards,