Friday, March 16, 2007

Born Racist?

One of the questions that came up on our first evening has stuck with me, namely whether children are born racist, this explaining the behavior of people such as Bull Connor. I believe that our consensus was that they are not born racist, with which I agree. However, I do not believe that we are born kind, compassionate, or generous, that these are learned values. And aren't these values the backbone of racism? When a protestor is being slammed against a wall with the water from a fire hose, that is not simply racism; it is a lack of compassion for another being. Bull Connor et al. are not simplt racists--they are people without compassion for others. And as such they were born that way and society/family did not teach them otherwise. The reason that this conversation stuck with me is that I felt we reached a consensus that we are born kind towards others, and I do not think that is the case. We have to learn these values.


Dr. No said...

I particularly like the comments of both Mr. Lourie and Michael Abraham about the issue of "born racist." I agree with Mr. Lourie that we're not born with any innate value system--the way(s) we behave toward others, both positive and negative, are learned behaviors. I think Michael is on to something important when he says that what helps Huck overcome the prejudices he's ingested from society is that he has the opportunity to encounter Jim as a human being (reminiscent of MLK's allusion to Martin's Buber's I-Thou relationship replacing the I-It relationship). What Bull Connor lacks is the ability to see blacks in any other way than through the window of his own limited and skewed vision--he doesn't see them as human beings. We have to be open to the possibility of sharing our own common humanity.

Dr. No

Elizabeth said...

I hadn't yet thought about the opposite characteristics of racism, such as kindness or compassion, but I fully agree with Mr. Lourie's statement. I don't think we are born with any specific traits, which further supports the idea of being raised and taught such things.