Rising Above Racism Is Imperative for Human Societies

A man poses as crying firebrand anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders during a small demonstration outside parliament, rear, in The Hague, Netherlands.

The virulently racist lawmaker Steve King, R-Iowa, is at it again, stoking the flames of white supremacy with his controversial tweet, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” implying that white babies will restore American civilization. In follow-up interviews, King doubled down on his assertion and even recommended the newly popular and wildly racist, anti-immigrant French novel written in 1973, “The Camp of the Saints,” which Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon often references.

King, who reportedly keeps a Confederate flag on his desk, has a history of making remarks that suggest white people are superior to nonwhites, such as the ones he made last year on MSNBC when he said, “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about? Where did any other subgroup of people [besides whites] contribute more to civilization?”

While some of his Republican colleagues have denounced his remarks, the fact is, King simply echoes openly what his party has tiptoed around for years through its anti-immigrant, anti-affirmative action, pro-police and tough-on-crime policies. Trump, who has arrived slightly late to the game of dog-whistle politics compared with King, has remained stubbornly silent on his fellow Republican’s chilling remarks.

In his controversial tweet this week, King was defending his counterpart in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders. “Wilders,” he said, “understands that culture and demographics are our destiny.” Wilders is one of a growing number of Western politicians who is stoking racial hatred of whites against people of color. His right-wing populist party was poised to sweep Dutch elections but had a poor showing in the end.

Wilders’ increasing popularity is part of a disturbing trend across Europe aimed at scapegoating Muslims and nonwhite immigrants. The election of Trump in the U.S., when examined on a global scale, should not surprise us.

Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty recently warned against this trend, naming Trump among other leaders and saying, “Politicians wielding a toxic, dehumanizing ‘us vs them’ rhetoric are creating a more divided and dangerous world.”

I have thought long and hard about the reason why we see so many people putting their faith in opportunistic politicians who are engaged in the politics of fear, paranoia and bigotry. It seems counterintuitive that ordinary Americans and Europeans who are suffering economically would blame foreigners over the wealthy elites that overtly benefit from neoliberal capitalism. The favored theory (which I, too, have espoused) for why scapegoating is common and why it works is that it is easy to distract people from what is truly harming them by pointing to the obvious outsiders.

Scapegoating immigrants absolves the true culprit—neoliberal capitalism and corporate greed—from blame. But this is too simplistic. It does not explain why nearly a third of Latino and Asian voters picked Trump in last November’s election. It also doesn’t explain why so many educated and middle-class whites who were not struggling financially chose Trump over Clinton. After all, Clinton is a white woman who is a proud ally of Wall Street. In most European countries, which have a far stronger welfare state and social safety net than the U.S., it doesn’t seem sensible that whites would pick xenophobic leaders if they are—broadly speaking—able to rely on the state for basic sustenance. Would that it were so simple to end racism by merely ending capitalism and income inequality.

Evolutionary biologists have a theory that better helps explain the rise of right-wing populism. Of course, racist sentiments and the fear of a shrinking majority have driven whites to pick belligerent leaders. But “territoriality and the endowment effect,” according to Lixing Sun, a biology professor at Central Washington University, plays a strong role, too. Our instincts, developed over evolutionary time periods, to protect what we feel is ours from those perceived to be outsiders plays a role in politics. Even those who were once outsiders succumb to the fear of newer outsiders sharing a piece of the pie. One man, calling himself “Forsetti’s Justice,” who apparently once lived in conservative rural America, wrote in a lengthy piece on Alternet about the racism and xenophobia among white rural Christians that “no amount of understanding, respect or evidence is going to change their minds and assuage their fears.”

One could conclude that it is simply human nature to look out for one’s own self-interest. Indeed, prehistoric events bear out the fact that humans have warred with one another for as long as we have been around. Scientists have found that “warfare is widespread among pre-industrial societies,” and that “warfare occurs among hunter-gatherer societies even when they are surrounded by other hunter-gatherer groups.” The romantic notion that “inter-group conflict was imported by contact with outsiders has been resoundingly rejected for both chimpanzees and human warfare.”

If war is a part of human nature, then so is serfdom, slavery, rape and women’s subjugation. (Matriarchal societies have always been the exception rather than the rule.) But we have rejected those horrific ills, and—in theory at least—the world still rejects racism. We have instituted complex (and admittedly flawed) systems of laws, treaties, courts and policing, to rise above our base natures. Indeed, if the word “civilization” means anything at all, it ought to mean grounding our societies in equality, dignity and respect for all humans. Otherwise King’s idea of civilization is akin to savagery. And in the end, that is what King, Trump, Wilders and their ilk have unleashed: mass savagery of the powerful against the weak.

But thankfully, humans are capable of rising above our primal states. Forsetti’s Justice asked, “Do you know what does change the beliefs of fundamentalists, sometimes?” He explained: “When something becomes personal. Many a fundamentalist has changed his mind about the LGBT community once his loved ones started coming out of the closet.” A similar effect can be seen when examining the popularity of Trump’s idea of erecting a border wall with Mexico. A new Pew study found that “Republicans who live closer to the border are less likely to support the wall than are those who live farther away.”

Cities, particularly those that are more racially diverse, are also good examples and tend to vote more liberally than people living in rural areas. The people in your community are automatically in your inner circle of trust. If that circle is mostly white, you distrust people of color. Conversely, if that circle is diverse, you are less likely to support policies that negatively impact your own friends and neighbors.

The prehistoric impetus to evolutionary benefits from fighting outsiders no longer holds. We have got to rise above our own base instincts and expand our definition of the human family to include all humans. Indeed, our survival as a species depends on it.

 

Source: http://www.truthdig.com/report/page2/rising_above_racism_is_imperative_for_human_societies_20170316

 

2 thoughts on “Rising Above Racism Is Imperative for Human Societies

  1. That’s a very hopeful picture from the Netherlands and a great joke on Geert Wilders. It’s a suprising outcome of the Dutch elections that Geert Wilders’ party came out as second and not as first. Not that prime minister Rutte is such a benevolent politician, as a well trained political performer. He admitted this profile of him to be true with his so called dis-arming laugh, years ago, but the predictions were pretty dramatic, suspecting Wilder’s party ruling my former country of birth.

    In 2003 I worked in a shop in the Highstreet of a large Dutch city and suddenly a man in a white costume with artificial blond hair came walking by, slowly and as if in thought. He was followed by a camera team in a car and at that time I hadn’t heard about a man called Geert Wilders.

    This was his first public performance, I learned later. The moment I saw this man walking by slowly, I felt instinctively that he was an imposter and an actor, playing a role that fitted his well thought through scenario, apparently. He actually looked ridiculous in that eccentric outfit.

    In 2011 I worked as a childminder in a home where every Wednesday, a cleaning woman arrived who worked her way through the whole house. She and I became good friends, as I usually befriend people from very different backgrounds, in my life. The mother of this family was cautious about our relationship for she feared that I wouldn’t feel I could communicate with this woman cleaner.

    She was a Roma gypsy, tinkling with cheap jewelry and married to a “wham bam thank you ma’am” husband with charisma and mother of a daughter who hung on the phone every quarter of an hour. She lived in one of the most unruly neighbourhoods in my city. Where shooting parties were as normal as wedding parties. With the sofa and the beertap in the streets during footballmatches for world championship. Orange flags flapping in the Dutch wind all over the homes and lantern posts.

    She told me a juicy story one day, about the planned visit of Queen Beatrix to her neighbourhood and the obligation for residents to clean the front of their homes, beautify their gardens and make themselves representable. The whole streetplan and route of the Royal Caravan Serai was mapped and all residents knew of it.

    Gardeners and streetbricklayers arrived in large numbers, bringing roses, rhododendron shrubs and new stones, so that all was looking bright and well cared for. Meanwhile, the day of Queen Beatrix birthday, April 30th came near and everybody was excited about her visit. At the last minute, the route was changed and shortened, so that a number of streets were excluded from the Queen’s visit.

    That was the start of murmurings and grumpiness, for these folks are pretty instinctive in their likes and dislikes, most of them familiar with street language. The Queen arrived, all was neatly and formally organised, including much waving and singing of the National Anthem Wilhelmus and an occasional gesture of flowers offered to Queen Beatrix, who can show warmth and charm for sure.

    At the end of the day, or rather the night, everybody was drunk and exhausted after the festivities of a day coloured in orange, all homes with a stall outside and people selling their trinkets and attic content.
    Beertaps and foodstalls, musical performances, games for children, fortune tellers, all sorts of entertainment.

    The morning after, the gardeners and streetbricklayers arrived, rather early to the hangovers of the residents. All roses and rhododendron shrubs were removed and new stones were replaced by the old ones. Everybody looked bleary eyed and in disbelief upon the dismantling of their neighbourhood.
    From that day, the whole neighbourhood turned their back to Queen Beatrix and became fan of Geert Wilders. End of story.

    I looked at her in amazement when this gypsy woman finished her story and I asked her if she was serious. I couldn’t imagine that this was a true story. She nodded “Yes” and said “After about 6 months a member of the town council visited us and he told us that he felt he had to offer his apologies in the name of the town council, for the bizarre treatment we received”.

    I’m sure this man was offered many mugs of coffee, chocolates and also tosti’s, for that’s what touches the hearts of these people. At least the pain of this “royal injustice” was lessened a bit by this man’s kind visit to their neighbourhood!

    Geert Wilders’ fans are mainly people who know the language of the street and who really feel that immigrants and refugees steal their jobs and spoil the tribal lifestyle of their families that live for generations in the same home. It’s common that they feel much empowered by copying each other’s opinion in the company of generalisations and one liners. Instincts rule in their world and Geert Wilders knows how to play them. In the right time and at the right place it’s the melody of Bread and Games.

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