IN PART 1 we saw how, contrary to the politically correct mantra that “there is only one race, the human race”, there are indeed numerous races (but only one species). We also noted that what is misnamed “racism” is not prejudice against race in itself so much as cultural prejudice — prejudice against all that is culturally different to what individuals are familiar with and accustomed to.
A little thought will reveal that “racism”, or cultural prejudice, directed against cultures other than one’s own is directly related to one’s attitude to one’s own culture.
Everybody believes or feels that the group into which they have been born — their people, tribe, clan, or race — possesses an inherent quality or virtue, in which they share, and which is not necessarily common to mankind as a whole. Everybody practises this positive cultural identification, and there is nothing morally wrong in doing so. Group loyalty is a biological adaptation common to every society, and a perfectly natural and healthy predisposition that binds the members of a community closer together for their mutual benefit. Blacks who are proud to be black, and whites who are proud to be white are fully entitled to be so. These are inclusive expressions of the individual’s sense of community, of belonging and being part of the group in which he or she is born and raised.
Racism or cultural prejudice, on the other hand, as we know has an exclusive effect, driving different groups of people apart. But a little thought will reveal that racism is simply the inverse of group loyalty. To have any meaning or significance, the perceived sense of particular communal virtue characteristic of group loyalty has to be considered as absent or rare in all other communities.
If every community were considered to be as virtuous as one’s own, then the binding effect of group loyalty would be negated. Ironically, “racism”, or cultural prejudice, has to exist if group loyalty is to be effective, as the other side of the same coin. So racism and group loyalty turn out to be two different aspects of the same biological process of individual self-identification, directed outwards against strangers in the first instance and inwards towards one’s own social group in the second.
While, as we noted in the previous section, there is no rational justification for a prejudice against anybody based upon their genetic makeup, there certainly is rational justification for prejudice based upon their cultural difference, given the human predisposition to identify socially, described above.
“Racism”, or cultural prejudice, cannot rationally be held to be bad as long as the individual’s cultural identification with their community is held to be good, because as mirror biological functions of each other, one cannot exist without the other. If it is desirable that racism or cultural prejudice be eradicated, then individual communal self-identification will have to be eradicated along with it. This process has, in fact, already started.
It is impossible to understand the real nature of racism without taking fully into account the reality that throughout human history discrimination and prejudice against those of different racial groups has been in fact the social norm in all societies, right up to as recently as the middle of the 20th century.
Until about the 1950s, everybody in the West was expected to be prejudiced in regard to their feelings about those of other races and cultures. This historical public acceptance of racism as normal seems extraordinary in terms of today’s moral beliefs, when all forms of discrimination and prejudice are to be automatically condemned.
There was, however, up until approximately the mid-20th century, sound reason for this discrimination and prejudice. And in order to understand just why antiracism has suddenly replaced racism as the new moral norm, we need first to understand fully what the reason for that prejudice was.
• Matthews is author of Our Captured Minds — How Religions and Ideologies Exploit Morality to Order and Control Society. This is the second of a four-part series. The next part considers how and why attitudes to race have changed since the mid-20th century.