We live in a time of extreme exposure and this exposure is no longer limited to the old ways of reporting; where radio, news papers or the Television were the primary ways. There is now Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and many other ways that allow for current events to be exposed and for individuals to express their views.
One of the consequences of this is that people’s actions, often the ones in the public eye, are seen and heard like never before; which has the potential for higher levels of judgment and scrutiny. Certain events are given extreme exposure and with the original context of a story being changed.
Racism in Football
One of the recent events related to racism is the incident involving John Terry and Anton Ferdinand. This has raised questions around the effectiveness of the ‘say no to racism ‘campaign and also as to why there are not more black managers in football. Professional footballers are role models for so many people and with the status that they have in our society; it was inevitable that it would lead massive exposure and uproar.
I am of white/Caucasian decent, and I have never experienced racism directly and neither do I claim to understand what it must feel like to experience such abuse.
What I do have is my own ideas and views about racism. These are about the psychology of racism and about what I believe are some of the reasons behind it. I have watched, heard and read about different situations where racism has been active and have been around others who have been abused in this way. And I now want to share my current perspectives.
The Definition of Racism
Racism is defined as: a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
The Typical Approach
One of the common approaches to eradicating racist behaviour is through logic and repression. That is to define racism as bad or wrong; with the expectation that it will be solved by coming to this conclusion.
However, the problem here is that the majority of behaviour is unconscious and is triggered at an emotional level. If the average person were to be asked why they behave the way they do, why they believe what they do or why they feel the way they do; they probably wouldn’t know or it might be a challenge at best to answer this question.
The Illusion Of Evolution
So upon this understanding, it becomes clear to see that logic or repression will not work in removing racism. It will appear to have gone, through the process of it being pushed into ones unconscious mind. The illusion of evolution will then be created within a society; when all that is occurring is a paint job. A human beings growth is in fact; merely in a place of stunted growth.
The perspectives for example that lead to racist behaviour are likely to still exist, but through the conditioning of guilt or shame, will be kept hidden and under control. This might then cause them to be channelled into other ways. Behaviour then might go to the other extreme; creating an environment of paranoia and fear around coming across as racist.
It is said that the more laws a society has the less evolved it is. I think this demonstrates that when a human being understands something at a deeper or emotional level, laws are not required and the laws are seen for what they actually are - compensatory.
The Real Reasons
The real reasons, as to why, people feel the way they do about other races is rarely being looked at or processed. It is clear to see that it cannot be removed as one would remove a box; moving it from one place to the other. It is apparent that a different approach is needed.
The Role Of The Ego
We all have an ego mind and the ego mind has some very generally ways of responding and seeing the world. And I think that in order to understand racism we have to look at the role of the ego. It has a way interpreting the world in polarities and this causes the good/bad, inferior/ superior, lack/abundance and numerous other similar perspectives.
It also creates the illusion of separation; making one feel that they are separate from the environment and other people. And through this form of polarisation we can see how all races can be put in the same category by the mind and how generalisations are formed around race. If one race is seen as separate from another, it is then easier to act in certain ways towards them.
We all have been conditioned; this could be by family, friends, religion, the media and numerous other sources.
This creates the following questions: are people racist because of their direct experience of people from other backgrounds? Or is it the result of second hand ideas and perspectives? Perhaps these are Ideas and perspectives that have been passed from one generation to the other.
So how does this relate to racism? Through the conditioning one receives from the sources around them, the opinions and conclusions they have about other races will not be based on real experience and something they can own themselves.
Perhaps when they were first being told and conditioned about other races, they were forced to accept what was being told out of the need to be accepted and to avoid being rejected. At an age where their own survival was on the line, had they not accepted what was being sold to them. This can then become their paradigm for life, never question or changed.
There is also something called associations and the mind forms associations around what is safe and also around everything that it experiences. This could be associations around: men, women, places, countries, food and just about everything else. These associations are what allows one to create meaning and make sense of what one experiences.
However these associations are not reality, they are the minds conclusion and interpretation of what it sees. So this shows that the associations and meanings that we have about something or someone might be inaccurate at best and destructive at worst.
And just like conditioning; these will likely be associations that are not firsthand creations, they are likely to be second hand and passed on from another source.
So how does this relate to racism? If one has been conditioned to see another race in a certain way; these associations will be triggered whenever they see or are exposed to another race. This will then create their thoughts, behaviours and perspectives.
The reality is that everyone on this planet is inherently unique and different. And so when a racist judgment is made it could be based on associations that have nothing to do with the person or people involved. Of course certain races are categorised in certain ways, however if there is a pattern in certain races it is surely based on the environment they were brought up in and not on the colour of their skin. With it being clear to see that there is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in all races.
Reticular Activating System
Each one of us has a Reticular Activating System. To explain this in a simplified way; it is a function of the brain to only see what it is programmed to see. It is a filter system.
So how does this relate to racism? Through conditioning and associations, it will actively filter and see only what it has been programmed to see. So if it has been programmed to see only negativity, for example, in another race; that is what it will see. And anything that goes against this programming will be filtered out, or perhaps even justified in some way, as to remove the possibility of seeing the race through another perspective.
The mind likes to use defence mechanisms as a way to minimise the stress that it is experiencing. These are extremely important for our own psychological health and without them we wouldn’t survive very long. As the stimulus and stress that they deal with would overwhelm us, if it wasn’t for their support.
The other side of it is the mind will use them as a way to avoid facing or dealing with anything. It will be quite happy to avoid looking at a situation or memory forever.
So how does this relate to racism? We can see that as a way to avoid responsibility for what has happened, the mind will use any form of defence it can. And if this means blaming another for something it will, and the fact the other person might look different to them makes it easier for the mind to avoid taking responsibility for what happens.
This shows that the right education is the key; however expecting it to stop by saying it is bad is as effective as saying to oneself ‘I shouldn’t feel this way’ and expecting the feeling to go. As the saying goes ‘what we resist persists’. There has to be a readiness for change to take place.
Deeper questions have to be asked and a deeper understanding of one’s emotions and awareness of oneself is required. To understand how the mind functions in black and white, how it forms associations and how the conditioning of others has formed and is forming our views and perspectives of life.
Conclusion And Something Important To Consider
All of these views and opinions above have come about through such things as; awareness, detachment and objectivity. So how does this relate to what causes racism? I believe this demonstrates that racism will only be truly eradicated by those who are willing to question and challenge the conditioning and associations that they have; this is the conscious individual.
And that racism cannot be eradicated through force or control. Whether we are talking about racism or any other kind of abuse, at best all we can really do is change ourselves. To force another to change would be to create an ‘eye for an eye scenario’ and this of course leads to more divisiveness.
So although it sounds good politically to have campaigns and to see it as something that can be changed overnight; in reality it is a long term challenge, as history has shown.
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Oliver J R Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 25 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.