by Daniel Cubias
I once hurt someone’s feelings, and not via my usual method of making an ill-timed, biting joke. No, I disappointed my friend because I said that eradicating racism is impossible.
She is a hippie type who inexplicably thinks that someday humanity will get its act together and take a break from the self-slaughtering. But that will never happen — at least not completely and everywhere on the globe.
Eliminating racism is a goal we should work toward, obviously, but with the knowledge that striving for perfection is a method for constant improvement. It is not a realistic endpoint that we can expect to reach.
The main reason for this is because, frankly, we’re not that smart. Humans are horribly tribal, and we instinctively shun outsiders. We’re not very good at telling our brains to be logical and accept that person who looks different from us. Neither are we effective at dismissing stereotypes, because they save us mental energy. In short, we’re lazy and dim.
But let’s say we evolve to the point that we banish all racist thoughts. Well, that would be great, but we still have a problem. Not to get all Freudian, but our evil subconscious does more than repress creepy thoughts. It’s why we react in prejudicial ways toward different races, even if we know it’s wrong. For example, many Americans say they’re open to dating people of any race. But they’re really not, and they probably don’t even know it.
Finally, there is the simple anecdotal argument that we haven’t come close to getting rid of racism yet. After all, we’re going on five thousand years of civilization. And yet we still have Nazis. Think about that — homicidal racists are openly cavorting in the twenty-first century.
Sorry, but the truth is that bigotry exists in every culture, which is evidence that racism is more than an innate failing in the human condition. It is an instinctual flaw of homo sapiens.
And this not just an abstract point. It has real-world consequences.
We have heard that because we have a black president, racism must be dead. And sure enough, many Americans — either out of naivety or maliciousness — insist that we should now shut up about bigotry. While we’re at it, let’s dismantle any institutions or programs that exist to combat racism. After all, if we’ve defeated the enemy, there is no need to keep fighting, is there?
But racism is not a finite affliction, something that can be stomped out once and for all. Bigotry is not the smallpox virus. This is an ongoing battle that will have no real end. At best, racism will become weaker and weaker with each passing decade, until it reaches a point of minimal influence and potency. But it will always be there, in some form.
As such, there will never be a time when we can let our guard down and say racism is extinct.
It would be nice if we could.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of
the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.