Embracing Racism

This isn’t a click bait title. I know it very much looks like it, but I promise it is not.

Persecuting another human being due to their ethnicity is a loathsome act and showcases the very worst in us as a human species.

Here is the difficult thing, though:

We are all racist

“Everyone’s a little bit racist” is a song popularised by the musical, Avenue Q. It is tongue in cheek, light hearted — but also carries quite a powerful axiomatic truth.

It is a natural thing, reflective of our evolutionary progression. All the way back to Neanderthals, our evolutionary forefathers, we are programmed to fear those from a different tribe to our own. It is an in-built defence mechanism. The same way that we are programmed to fear the threat of cliffs, and the power of the sea, our internal genetic code is hardwired to fear difference.

That’s why it is critical to embrace that fear.

Recognising that fear, and understanding it, is essential. Fighting it is futile.

What does that mean?

It means gravitating towards human beings that share certain aesthetic commonalities with ourselves. That could be skin, hair, height or less discernible features like bone structure.

It’s entirely natural, then, to fear those from a different tribe. That’s why sometimes we all get a little scared internally when we encounter different ethnicities in certain scenario.

Consider this scenario; I am approached by someone at a train station. They want to borrow my phone.

Who am I rather to lend my phone to, Jill from my local neighbourhood watch or Bogdan from Romania? Instinctively, intuitively — it’s Jill every day of the week.

Given time to consider my fight my evolutionary instincts, I might give Bogdan a break, but in the heat of the moment, I will always gravitate towards Jill.

If you are reading this, put yourself in a similar scenario and altar the players, if you reckon you would instinctively act any differently, you are lying.

Evolutionary instincts are solid. They keep us safe. Yet sometimes, the world in which we live, evolves faster than us as a species.

Our tribe has grown. We are all global citizens now with international travel and open borders.

So, how do we evolve our societal construct?

Ashamedly, sometimes when I see someone from a different ethnicity begging, I am unable to identify with them on any level. I sort of think “they are different” before my logical brain and empathy kicks in.

That is a sickening thought, isn’t it?

We are all human beings. We share the same feelings. Sometimes we are all hungry, sometimes we are sad, sometimes we are excited. We are the same species, bonded by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

I don’t wish to live in a world where discrimination is accepted. I look at attacks like the one George Floyd suffered in America with total abhorrence.

How do we prevent this?

1. Embrace racism. Don’t try and eradicate it, because it’s impossible.

2. Legislate accordingly. Positively discriminate.

Until we embed in our laws integrative policy measures, we will always naturally revert to our own insular tribes.

If policy members have a real and genuine interest in stopping racial discrimination, they should look at tools like:

1. Mandating that all publicly traded Companies should have a diverse board of Directors. No tables full of middle ages white guys. Remember that train station scenario from earlier? Transpose that to a job interview and that’s where “white privilege” emerges.

2. Enforcing diversity profiles to drive integrated education. Our young should grow up and see diversity as normal.

3. Taking a qualitative look at the proportional representation of our sporting role models. Look at the Premier League — how many black managers are there?

Apartheid was a policy of racial segregation in South Africa. It failed. In South Africa now, they pursue a policy of positive discrimination, which is not without its challenges — but perhaps it is the only way to fight our evolutionary instincts.

I walk around London and enjoy the immense cultural diversity. I can eat Lebanese food for lunch and Iraqi for dinner, if I feel like it. I can enjoy Spanish Opera or French Cinema. It makes life richer.

Perhaps we fear immigration, or an asymmetry of opportunity, because we are genetically programmed to do so.

I grew up in Northern Ireland where racial discrimination remains a very serious problem. I had a black friend when I was young who we called “coco pop” for obvious reasons. We didn’t know any different.

The world is smaller than it was. International travel is not only possible, it is actively encouraged. I can be anywhere in the world, in a pre Covid era, in just over 24 hours.

Tribes are no longer insular. Someone from the west of Ireland can travel wherever they want. Let’s embrace and normalise that trend with positive discrimination.

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Phil Patterson

Phil Patterson

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Founder of www.realcbdclub.com —Former VC and Startup Guy…I write for fun. About things I like, and some things I hate.