I have decided I might adopt a dog. Which is both thrilling and frightening. But while looking for possible said dog on Craigslist, I encountered a posting that I almost don’t want to link to to give it more access than it deserves. But I do think it’s worth talking about, in the sense that it is so untrue, and frightening that people possibly believe shit like this (link no longer available). The author of the random Craigslist post (which appeared when I searched for “dog”) argues that people of African descent evolved to be more “wild,” or, to quote this author:
-have poor impulse control
-cannot concieve of the future as a real event which must planned for (e.g. leasing an Escalade instead of buying health insurace)
-do not invest or nurture their young to the extent Whites or Asians do
-are more sociopathic
S/he argues that additionally, people of European descent have evolved to harvest crops, “domesticate” things (the word, in and of itself, contains a bias), and “behave and work hard. Those who were bad for the group/clan, were kicked out and ultimately could not survive on their own. Survival was a group effort in Northern Europe.” As if that weren’t true in Africa??
Full disclosure–I am of entirely European descent–some combination of German, Norwegian, Czech, English, French, Scots-Irish and who knows what else. But since living in New York City and working with “underserved populations,” the empathy I have always felt towards people who are being given the short end of the stick has shifted strongly toward people of African descent living in the United States. I’ve always been fascinated by race relations–by white inability and intimidation in discussing them to the undercurrent of racism that still (uhm, obviously) pervades our society, even as the first black president holds residence in the nation’s capital. It would be naive to believe that I understand, in really, any fundamental way, the struggles that people of any African descent face in this nation. However; as a white woman in a society where being white does, in fact, still mean something, I believe using the power that I DO have to speak up against racism is the only thing I can do. To work with people, both white and black, in whatever way I can to at least level the “playing field” for our children. I don’t want my children to have an advantage because they are white. Or from a middle-class home. I want all children to have a future where they are armed to contribute to society. Where they have many opportunities to better the world. We need everyone. That includes the children of African descent. The America I see fails tremendously at this, every day, in so many classrooms, so many police stations, so many cities and so many ways. I don’t pretend to know the answer, or to even truly understand the problem. But I’m making an effort to be aware of it. To recognize my privilege and both be grateful for all that I have but also speak out against it. It isn’t something I deserve.
Back to the article.
I’m so confused by this person’s logic, and/or what evidence s/he is using. Different societies have different expectations, sure. Some societies are more accepting of violence, other eschew the use of it. Those are cultures, and perhaps over time they are selected for as genotypes. The problem is that neither European nor African society evolved in a homogenous way–each had countless clans/tribes/whatever you want to call them with their own cultures and expectations of appropriate behavior. A recent RadioLab episode explores what types of behavior “win out” in computer generated trials of war-like encounters and finds that the idea of “tit-for-tat” or “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” is the most effective way to fight, in that it leaves you alive most often. It stands to reason that this would make sense in any context–regardless of whether it happened to be in Africa or Europe.
I don’t think this person is really and truly a thoughtful, logical person, despite his/her closing claim that “This is Race Realism. It is science. It is logic. It’s really very obvious.” And I would like to say to this person–“Really?? THIS is science?! Do you have studies?” Facts can be interpreted in differing ways. But given that this argument includes ONLY European vs African human evolution (and strangely leaves out Asian, South American, Middle Eastern, etc), I just can’t take it seriously.
Ultimately, the argument boils down to trying to answer this question: “How many billions in tax dollars must be wasted trying to improve Black nature before we realize that it is absolutely to no end?” The fact is, there may not be an organized conspiracy against people of African descent in this country, but there certainly is a faction of people whose sentiment is extremely negative towards those of African descent. Even more disturbing is the view of the success of people of African descent (many many of whom in this country share the genes of Europeans!!) in zero sum terms. The author asks, “How many more safe and clean neighborhoods (re: White) must be we lose, being ghettoized and destroyed by Blacks before we can break with the illusion that they are “bad” because of environmental factors? How long can we blame colonialism, Jim Crow, Slavery or whatever for the failure of Africans to behave and adapt in modern societies?” Because obviously, if black people succeed, whites will be fucked, right??!!!
But if we are all better off, we are ALL better off. We can’t live in a society where things are sectioned off the way they are. Where black people are 12% of the national population but make up nearly 40% of the prison population. This is NOT because they are of African descent. This is because we arrest people of African descent at higher rates for crimes that we ALL commit (I’m looking at you, drugs). Black people have become a scape goat for our unwillingness to actually truly help other people that we don’t know on a personal level. Who seem like “other.”
The author of the Race Realism post attempts to make a reasoned, logical argument but fails miserably. It ends up being just an excuse for being too lazy and greedy to clean up the mess that is our ridiculously unequal society, where people are too stupid to realize they will never, in fact, be rich and therefore yes!! We SHOULD tax the wealthy more! Clearly, there are many Americans to DO get it, at least when Social Security is held over their heads. But we need people to use their brains a bit more often and support candidates that are in line with what they tell pollsters from 60 minutes. Race plays into this because it gives people an excuse not to support more socially liberal welfare programs.
We need to get beyond this. We must be willing to help people who don’t look like us, who we’ve never met. How can we do that when people are still making arguments that Africans are genetically, across the board, different than Europeans, and comparing them to coyotes? How do we have a conversation with people who so clearly do not live in the world of science and logic, yet claim their argument is based in these things? Why didn’t the North just let the South succeed? Because, let’s be serious, who would be better off now?