There’s only so much conflict you can take until you find yourself asking, “Why can’t we all just get along?” One of the great things about America is its multiculturalism, but diversity also means greater potential for the clashing of opposing sides. Some people think this way while other people do it that way, and haters are always going to hate and you can’t please everyone. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with diversity or even an occasional butting of heads: after all, variety is the spice of life and you can’t call it friends until you’ve had a fight and all that. Unfortunately, a difference of opinion can often overstep the boundaries and into the territory of prejudice and intolerance. One of the most classic examples of this transgression is racism, a phenomenon that has largely declined in more recent times, but still continues to rear its ugly head in more subtle ways.
What exactly are the causes of racism, anyway? In some ways it’s surprising that racism even exists, since if you talk to most people they seem to view racism as something abhorrent. But that’s the thing—there’s a difference between what people say and what they subconsciously feel. Ever heard of the Implicit Association Test? It was implemented at Harvard, where all important things originate. Take 2 different groups: the classic example is white people and black people. During timed periods, words will pop up associated with either group and you have to categorize them into “good” and “bad” as quickly as you can, then vice versa. Does this sound kind of confusing? Well, the point is that you might say that you aren’t prejudiced, but you might be. Your test results might show that you sort one group of people into the “bad” group more frequently and quickly, suggesting some underlying prejudice, even though you may feel otherwise. Thus, the causes of racism seem even more nebulous. How can you cause something that you don’t really want to happen?
Various viewpoints regarding the causes of racism have been presented and blended together. The causes of racism in the past aren’t so different from the causes of racism today. It has to do with how our brains organize information combined with our life experiences. In short, nature and nurture. When we don’t have a lot of interaction with people of other races, we refer to what little we do know about them, and when you don’t have a lot of information, you’re not going to be smart about anything.
So before you judge and jump to conclusions, get to know somebody before you’re going to reinforce your misinformed beliefs. And yeah, you can’t exactly control your subconscious, but before you freak out about being secretly racist, realize that you do have conscious control over how you act and make decisions. Deciding to understand and look before you leap is the first step towards tolerance and making the world a better place.