Why your brain hates other people
It’s been a long time since I posted anything – been a bit too occupied with running election campaigns! Although I try to keep my political activities separate from social work, there is so much that overlap.
Living in an area where racism is rife this one particular subject has been close to the forefront of my mind. What a treat then to find this rather long article by entitled Why Your Brain Hates Other People, by Robert Sapolsky, on the the root causes of so many different areas of prejudice, whether we call it racism or not, whether we talk of hate crimes or bullying or something else.
Fundamentally, whether we like it or not, our brains are hard-wired to “stick to our own kind”, whether that’s race, religion, politics, or class. It’s in the amygdala. We won’t, in our lifetimes, overcome our biology, but understanding is the first step in lessening the negative impact in our own lives.
[The article references the Implicit Association Test – a brilliant way of testing your own prejudices. Much of what Sapolsky talks about here can also be found in the work of the Human Givens Institute. Both easily found with Google.]
I had a conversation with a political friend the other day. I was reminiscing about being in Africa and noticing that people kept staring at me. And then I realised I hadn’t seen another white face in three days. I was passing through their land, albeit slowly. I loved Africa and I hated it. I was travelling on a shoestring, yet by virtue of my race, my colour, I was seen as rich. And I was rich. I had food in my belly. I was travelling in a car. But I knew that sooner or later I would have to face up to the fact that my travels were being increasingly funded by debt, and I would soon have to return to work to clear those debts. Could I explain that? No. I was rich. I had access to debt I could hope to work to pay off. My European passport (soon to be lost to Brexit, don’t get me started) gave me a freedom of movement not afforded to others. White privilege.
But as I reflect on Sapolsky’s article I wonder how else ‘they’ saw ‘me’?