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Is racism natural?

Posted by Richard on May 14, 2009

Dafydd at Big Lizards (don't let the banner blind you) says that racism is the most natural thing in the world. So much so that most racists don't even realize that that's what they are. But he argues that "natural" and "good" aren't synonymous, and that we should be glad that we've developed an alternative to this primitive, "natural" way of thinking (emphasis in original; I'm tempted to add my own, but instead just encourage you to read the following carefully and thoughtfully):

Racism is simply tribalism, where the tribe is expanded to encompass everyone of the same color or gross physiognomy. Western civilization is powerfully anti-racist because it's anti-tribalist; it redefines the comfort-group to a set determined by culture, not by skin color or facial features. That is why Western Borg culture led the way towards the abolition of racial slavery — and why many non-Western cultures, particularly in Moslemdom, still cannot understand what is wrong with that "peculiar institution."

(I use the term "Western Borg culture" because Western civilization is so powerful and attractive that it assimilates every culture it comes into contact with; resistance is futile.)

The song from South Pacific, "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught," has it exactly backwards: Racism is the default state; what must be carefully taught is individualism: Not the I-me-mine kind of narcissism found in infants and liberals, but the full-monty philosophy that other people are also individuals deserving of as much respect and liberty as we, unless by their own actions they forfeit that respect.

That philosophy is bizarre, unnatural, and incomprehensible to very young children and very primitive peoples. Fortunately, the economic version of individualism — Capitalism — is such a powerful wealth producer that (a) Western countries are rich enough to mandate liberty (subsistance societies haven't the luxury), and (b) the smell of money lures the primitive towards liberty, Capitalism, and individualism by another completely natural deadly sin: Envy.

Thus does God — if He exists — turn even human failings to His own purposes.

Amen. Amen, amen, amen!

One of the greatest evils of the modern (post-industrial-revolution) era is the romanticist philosophy of which Rousseau is one of the earliest and most prominent proponents: the belief that there is something noble, clean, and pure about uncivilized savages. There is not.

As Rand said decades ago, ideas matter. And the ideas of the Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, and concomitant political movements (the American Revolution chief among them) led to vast improvements in the moral state of most human beings. Not the least of which was the widespread (except in the Muslim world) rejection of chattel slavery for the first time in human history. 

Racism is natural — but so is botulism. Both are destructive poisons. 

It's reason, the Enlightenment, individualism, and the philosophy of natural rights and liberty that have enabled us to transcend our "natural" and primitive urges, fears, and superstitions — and thank goodness that we have.

Most of us, anyway.

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2 Responses to “Is racism natural?”

  1. Hathor said

    Shouldn’t that be ethnocentrism

  2. Hathor said

    Racism has nothing to do with slavery itself and definitely is not tribalism. It is one pseudoscience reason to justify slavery as it was used to justify the Holocaust. The pseudoscience was developed by Western Civilization. The anthropologist devised the notion of race and the Christian found the moral justification in the Bible.

    In the history of man, Islam is not older than Western civilization. What is primitive goes back tens of thousands of years and the phrase”the noble savage” generally refers to native Americans or Africans not a religious group, which of course is never seen as having any productive government or society. They may be idealized, but in the same way that an animal is given human characteristics. In this instance(your citation) they are imbued with someone elses philosophy. Is that racist?

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