Racism: Is it natural?
The media and the Twittersphere are all abuzz with accusations of racism that range from the ignorant to the profane. Sometimes from the same individual — as in "Beto" O'Rourke, the Hispanic Irishman. In a profanity-laden rant he accused President Trump of racism for his comments on foreign Muslims. The "Beto" seems blissfully ignorant of the fact that Muslims come from a dozen races and ethnicities. The president's beef is with the ideology of jihad, a fact that eluded our candidate.
But what about real racism? Does it exist? Is it inevitable? Is it natural?
Even with some of the best scientists in the world available to them, the German Nazis could never actually prove any race superior to another. Varied "advantageous traits" could be demonstrated in different races, but taken as a whole, no obvious "superiority" exists.
The only organization that I was ever a part of that actually had the ability to diminish racism across the board was the U.S. Marine Corps. If you serve any length of time in the Corps, you will frequently hear the term "unit cohesion." In simple terms, "us" means everyone who is a Marine and "other" means everyone who is not. I found I had a new race — the "green" race.
How this is accomplished was made eloquently clear at the beginning of the classic movie Full Metal Jacket. The late R. Lee Ermey's character Gunny Hartman questions each new recruit as to his origins and background and then doles out disparaging comments as to each man's ethnicity. I believe he used every racial and ethnic epithet in the English language, starting out by saying, "There is no racial bigotry here...you are all equally worthless in my eyes!" In that instant, the motley group of young men from all over the country became an "us" with the sergeant as the "other." Hartman forced them all into an awkward brotherhood, with him as the ferocious, implacable, and ever-present enemy.
Virtually all of us who earned the title Marine lived through such a moment at some time. The intensity of the training and the discipline taught each of us that most of our emotional indulgences from snarkiness to racism have no place in the serious, live-or-die world of an elite military force. Petty prejudices simply cannot survive in that harsh environment — so we do without them.
This does not mean that said prejudices will not return when the individual returns to the civilian world. They can be reintroduced and nurtured by family and friends. I found this in my personal life. Because of that, I suggest that racism in humans is as natural as bacteria. Some of us are cleaner than others, but we all host the microscopic creatures on our bodies.
Once aware of this scientific fact, is it desirable (or even possible) to rid ourselves of every germ? In point of medical fact, it would likely be fatal to us if we tried. Instead, we live with the fact that the bacteria are always there. But we try to stay clean — frequently with reminders from our loved ones that a shower is now in order. It takes effort every day for someone who wants to be "germ free." The same goes with the other problem.
What I am proposing is that bacteria and racism are not an "either/or" proposition. If we can all admit we have bacteria, we can admit we all have racism. As with the former, we have to work every day to scrub the latter and accept that we will never be entirely free of either.
What matters is that we try every day.