The idea that racism and prejudice are strictly a product of our environment is not entirely true. Racism and prejudice are actually a product of natural selection and evolution. It works like this. Humans were created with an evolutionary mechanism called fear. We have fear so that we can protect ourselves from the potentially dangerous hazards of the unknown. The unknown includes people and animals who look and maybe act much differently than us.
Let’s take babies as an example. Have you ever had a friend or family member with a young child who hadn’t been introduced to people of other cultures yet? You may have witnessed an awkward encounter when they finally ran into a person of a completely different color and immediately began screaming and crying hysterically. These hysterics come from an innate sense of fear. At less than a year old, there is no way a baby has already had racist tendencies instilled in him or her by their parents or environment. This is how natural selection has attempted to protect us from “danger”.
Differences are innately scary for human beings and all species. They make us fear that either our lives or our reproductive success could be threatened by another person and their differences. We must understand this because our environments are so important in relation to how fearful we are for the rest of our lives.
We have to teach our children the truth. We need to show them that fearing other humans simply because they are a different color, religion, or sexuality is illogical. These things are not what make people scary or not scary, dangerous or not dangerous. Unfortunately, there is no way to truly predict whether or not a person is going to threaten our survival. Our only option is to trust our instincts in these situations. But what do we do when our instincts lead to hate, prejudice and violent behavior? That is the question we need to be discussing.