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Old August 13th, 2017, 06:08 AM   #1

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IS Racism Innate or Learned?


Obama recently quoted Mandela:

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion."

Is it true? Or does racism come from xenophobia arising from unfamiliarity and misunderstanding? Are very visibly different people born in other cultures treated differently? I'm trying to talk toward sociology here and not genetics.
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Old August 13th, 2017, 06:45 AM   #2

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Originally Posted by Todd Feinman View Post
Obama recently quoted Mandela:

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion."

Is it true? Or does racism come from xenophobia arising from unfamiliarity and misunderstanding? Are very visibly different people born in other cultures treated differently? I'm trying to talk toward sociology here and not genetics.
The jury is definitely still out on this. Experiments with young children seem to indicate that racism is a learned trait. But from an anthropological perspective we clearly are wired to consider anyone not in our tribe with suspicion.

My personal opinion is that we are preset with racist tendencies and as a civilized person we have to work to overcome the urges.
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Old August 13th, 2017, 06:56 AM   #3

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The jury is definitely still out on this. Experiments with young children seem to indicate that racism is a learned trait. But from an anthropological perspective we clearly are wired to consider anyone not in our tribe with suspicion.

My personal opinion is that we are preset with racist tendencies and as a civilized person we have to work to overcome the urges.
Nicely stated.
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Old August 13th, 2017, 07:35 AM   #4

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The jury is definitely still out on this. Experiments with young children seem to indicate that racism is a learned trait. But from an anthropological perspective we clearly are wired to consider anyone not in our tribe with suspicion.



My personal opinion is that we are preset with racist tendencies and as a civilized person we have to work to overcome the urges.


I think that opinion is shared by most experts of the field. Evolution in tribal societies have earned us a set of skills that used to be vital for survival, but now is more redundant and can even impede our ability to cooperate and live in bigger societies. So while these tendencies are partly genetical, I think partly these tendencies can be either reduced or strenghtened through upbringing. And even if these tendencies are strenghtened through upbringing I think all people should be able to think for themselves and figure out what makes sense to think and what doesn't.
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Old August 13th, 2017, 08:15 AM   #5

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The jury is definitely still out on this. Experiments with young children seem to indicate that racism is a learned trait. But from an anthropological perspective we clearly are wired to consider anyone not in our tribe with suspicion.

My personal opinion is that we are preset with racist tendencies and as a civilized person we have to work to overcome the urges.
But are we born discriminating based on skin color? I'd imagine that only happens if a child grows up in a monoracial community. Additionally, my understanding is that historically skin color wasn't viewed as marking someone as inferior/superior until the advent of the African slave trade and European colonialism. So would a child growing up in London in 1350 naturally distrust people with dark skin?
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Old August 13th, 2017, 08:43 AM   #6

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So would a child growing up in London in 1350 naturally distrust people with dark skin?
IMHO no, most children are trusting, and have an innate curiosity of those who are different. Their parents on the other hand have a strong mistrust of anything that out of the norm, and may well have taken a different view, and passed down any fears and phobias to their children.
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Old August 13th, 2017, 08:48 AM   #7

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Discrimination based on skin colour is one thing, but there are plenty of instances of racism (such as in the Balkans) where the parties on both sides have no discernible differences to the eye,
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Old August 13th, 2017, 08:51 AM   #8

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But are we born discriminating based on skin color? I'd imagine that only happens if a child grows up in a monoracial community. Additionally, my understanding is that historically skin color wasn't viewed as marking someone as inferior/superior until the advent of the African slave trade and European colonialism. So would a child growing up in London in 1350 naturally distrust people with dark skin?
When I was a child here in Oregon, USA and in elementary school, I watched children throw rocks at an Iranian child because he looked different; I helped protect him. I also noticed children making fun of or bullying other children because of facial features (e.g. Their nose), and of course there was overt racism, and name calling. One could argue that it is dependent on the level of diversity of the culture, but I think the affective unit is smaller; the famiky, and perceptions of desirable societal norms. If something or someone looks different, they are suspect, or at least put into a different conceptual category.

This might be why there is only one human species today?

Last edited by Todd Feinman; August 13th, 2017 at 09:07 AM.
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Old August 13th, 2017, 09:16 AM   #9

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I don't think that's to do with diversity. That's how they are brought up. The little bastards quickly learn that there is safety in numbers, and numbers are often easiest to acquire with those who are most alike.

They also learn that making someone else a target prevents themselves from being a target. The easiest targets are the fat kids, the poor kids, the rich kids, the kids with spectacles, the kid with a stutter, the only girl in the group, etc. etc. etc.

So long as the adults around them tolerate that behaviour, then it continues, but most of the time, kids grow out of it.
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Old August 13th, 2017, 09:30 AM   #10

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But are we born discriminating based on skin color? I'd imagine that only happens if a child grows up in a monoracial community. Additionally, my understanding is that historically skin color wasn't viewed as marking someone as inferior/superior until the advent of the African slave trade and European colonialism. So would a child growing up in London in 1350 naturally distrust people with dark skin?
I dont think the skin color is the cause of the distrust, it is the skin color signaling you are not part of my tribe.

As for a child in 1350 London. I am not sure. From my reading Africans did from time to time come to London. I would suggest further a field in rural England a black skinned person might suffer being shot as an animal. But that is conjecture on my part
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