A question was kicked into my head by people chanting racial
slurs: “What makes people divide into groups and believe one is
The question followed me throughout life. Although my question
came from pain, the answers I found in ghettos and waterfronts hold
beautiful possibilities for a world where all forms of diversity are
After talking with tens of thousands of people, I have the answer
to “why” people often hate others. I know “how”
humans cut themselves off from other races and groups. I know how we
can reverse the process.
The cure for racism is a bitter pill to swallow.
Its bitterness would explain why this disease has historically
run rampant in segregation and apartheid, back to times it sickened
us with tribal warfare against “those devils across the river.”
There are evolutionary patterns in our development as a species that
explain why this disease infected the ideas of our forefathers, and
continues to plague societies today.
The cure for racism must be taken internally. It requires an
individual to learn a bitter fact about humanity.
The bitter fact is this: racist beliefs are only the fruit of
racism, not its seed.
When people show prejudice by chanting hate in the streets, their
ideologies are only the festering, rotten fruit of racism. The seeds
of this fruit lie much deeper within humanity itself.
After studying pre-verbal infants, Yale psychologist Paul Bloom
“A bias to favor the self, where the self could be people
who look like me, people who act like me, people who have the same
taste as me, is a very strong human bias. It’s what one would expect
from a creature like us who evolved from natural selection, but it
has terrible consequences.”
For racism to be cured, this bias must be recognized as part of
each and every human being on earth, including ourselves.
No matter our egalitarian thoughts, our own status or gender or
color, we all share the possibility for the altruistic best and
divisive worst in humanity to grow from this seed of bias.
The cure for racism is the recognition that self-bias is not only
within “them,” those laden with divisive and hateful
ideological fruit, but this seed is carried within “us” as
This recognition is a bitter pill to swallow, yet once cured we
find ourselves free of many forms of judgment. We’re able to welcome
people who are different in many ways.
When we take this cure, the “self” does not disappear.
It expands. It broadens as we recognize our kinship with the whole
of humanity, and find that beneath appearances and beliefs so much
is shared. 3,500 generations ago in Africa, a Mitochondrial Eve gave
birth to us all. This expanded self, our related family, is found
everywhere on the planet within each human being.
The cure for racism is awareness of a bitter seed of self-bias
within us all, yet one that bears the sweetest of fruit when “self”
is allowed to grow beyond boundaries.
Finding this seed within all people allows us to cure the disease
of racism and cultivate compassion that nurtures the world.