I am struck by how powerful negative messages can be when they appease entitlement or false beliefs. Just thinking about the concept of believing in a superior religion, sex, or ethnicity feels strange to me. Biology and genetics have been used to try to prove a superior type of human, namely the white man. One can say this is out of ignorance, but there must be more to it. When Europeans first discovered the African content, they saw the native Africans as inferior.
Religion, philosophy, and science have been twisted by man throughout history. This is why I believe it is important to be a skeptic. Even so, skepticism is not fool-proof. After reading Even the Rat Was White: A historical View of Psychology, by Robert V. Guthrie, I learned that even psychology has a racist past. Science is not protected from false ideology or false belief. I shouldn’t be surprised I suppose. I learned a lot from the book about where psychology started, an account that you do not usually find in the typical psychology textbook. In part this is because we don’t like to remember the negative experiences of the past.
I feel that the most important message from the book is that diversity is crucial to a healthy society. Now, this is not literally stated, but the book shows how science was stymied from racist assumptions. The attempt of a lot of white scientists to “prove” the inferiority of African-Americans is likely based on their homogenous upbringing. I would hope that most people today would be appalled at such a notion as one race being inferior. When a person grows up in a homogenous environment, they can form judgements or beliefs that are inaccurate or false. That is why I think diversity is so important and why I am happy to see the U.S. population changing in a more diverse direction. Hopefully that will lead to a more diverse representation in government and the private sector.
Racism, homophobia, and sexism still exist in the U.S. and the world. However, diversity presents us with an opportunity to reduce prejudice. I think that part of why racism was so strong in this country was due to old beliefs based on white superiority. It was also supported by beliefs about heredity being stronger than environment and that European white heredity was superior to other ethnicities. The history of science is not pretty, but that is due to white men who twisted science to fit their own beliefs. Thanks to the effort of African-American men and women, psychology made an important shift away from racist beliefs. You should really read Even the Rate Was White if you want to learn more about the contribution of African-Americans to psychology.
I believe humans to be naturally progressive. Most of us want to grow and improve ourselves. While some do not like societal change, we really don’t have that choice. Society shifts and changes naturally. We can change and improve society through progressive values. What was so inspiring to me about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was his inclusive language. He wanted everyone to come together and fight against injustice. After all, equality is ingrained in the constitution of the United States, even if back then it meant equality for white men and no one else. We can decide to interpret the constitution as proclaiming equality to all people no matter who we are.
We cannot help who we are or who we love. More and more people, specifically of the younger generations, believe this. That is the hope we have to eliminate prejudice. While it may take time, I believe it is possible to live in a world without prejudice and discrimination.