The fight against racism is never ending. Regardless of whether we call it sin, biology or tribalism, racism is natural. I am not saying that racism is morally right, what I am saying is that every generation will need to deal with it and those who seek to eradicate it face a never ending battle. This is because people have a natural affinity to prefer those who are like them. Similarity forms a natural bond between people and there is no similarity more obvious than skin color. Whenever people are shocked such as in The Necessary Recklessness of Campus Protests that no progress has been made since the 1960s, it comes from a misunderstanding of the human condition. Concerned student 1950 laments, “In 1968 the Black Student Movement issued 23 demands to the University. Almost 50 years have passed, but if you look at the demands you realize we are still dealing with exactly the same issues: little has changed.” This is because they are fighting against human nature. In spite of any changes that might be made now, in another 50 years, Mr. Turkson’s children or grandchildren will, unfortunately, be dealing with the same issues which he is dealing with now. I am certain both Mr. Turkson and I would prefer this to not be the case, but human nature hasn’t changed in the last 2000 years and is unlikely to change in the next 50.
Does this mean this fight isn’t worth fighting or that no “progress” can be made? Of course not, but we have to be smart about how we go about doing it. We also need to set realistic goals. I will not comment on what realistic goals are or should be because I don’t know.
Cialdini makes it clear that some methods are going to be effective while others will potentially backfire. His book isn’t explicitly about racism. But he uses forced desegregation in schools leading to an increase in racism as an example of how competition will cause a dislike. Conversely cooperation increases likeability of one another. Therefore, because many schools tend to be competitive environments, adding interracial cooperation would likely lead to a decrease in racism. It seems that a modest proposal which forces interracial cooperation for classes in the required general electives would be an effective measure to help combat the racism problem on campus. This of course leaves many open questions and certainly doesn’t solve everything. But this post isn’t about the particular solution, only the problem and how in general we should attempt to address it.