Friday, September 2, 2011

Reasonable People Might Agree

I didn't have to teach my sons how to discriminate.

I didn't sit them down and tell them to establish different rules for themselves than the rules they apply to other people. I didn't teach them to try to scheme to find ways to increase their advantage in every situation. And I definitely didn't teach them to allow others to suffer so they could profit. They came into this world as so-called innocent babes already inclined to do all of those things.

My job has been to try to curb their natural impulses.

Often, when we discuss racism and discrimination, it becomes a conversation about people's intentions, their hearts, and their upbringing. People take offense at the idea that they may be discriminating because that accusation is viewed as a direct assault on their morality. They reject claims of discrimination by noting that they have nothing against certain types of people, and are only living their lives as good human beings.

That assumes that human beings are "good."

I know many people don't like the whole "original sin" and "inherently evil human" concept. But, I believe in it. I think the problem is with the definition of "evil." Even doesn't only mean genocide and rape, it also means the opposite of good. So, if good behavior involves being generous and kind, evil involves being stingy and cruel. All of us struggle with evil, and it's not something we learn from watching television.

My sons like to have the advantage. They create rules for their games that benefit them, and change those rules as soon as the expected benefit isn't realized. They demand that their sibling be punished for infractions that they themselves beg to avoid punishment for committing. They are constantly seeking an advantage, constantly looking to block their peers advantage and always keeping score.

In short, they are little humans. They were born with vestigial forms of this behavior, and as they've aged, it's only gotten more serious.

This has provided me with some interesting insights into the behavior of adults. I've always known that most racism and discrimination comes from a desire to establish and maintain supremacy, but watching my children confirms it. More importantly, it confirms that avoiding racism and discrimination requires an intense desire and effort because that aim is not "natural."

That's why it's dangerous when people don't want to discuss or think about racism. It's dangerous when they refuse to educate themselves about historic and current power dynamics. It represents a threat because without that effort, it's impossible fight against these twin evils. Until people come to grips with the human instincts that lurk in their hearts, and decide that those impulses are incorrect, no change can occur.

One of the authors on a blog I read likes to use a quotation that basically says that cheating begins as soon as monogamy stops being reasonable. For many folks, evil begins as soon as being good stops being reasonable. The problem is that most of us don't understand how we truly define reasonable.


Raving Black Lunatic