This I Believe

Antonia - West Redding, Connecticut
Entered on March 5, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: prejudice

I believe racism is instinctual and that it is only through awareness and vigilance that it can be overcome. I grew up in England, went to public school and never met a black person until, at a dinner party, I met an African princess who was a fashion model. Although it was never mentioned in school, we were all racists and anti-Semitic. There were a couple of Jewish girls at our school and behind their backs, almost everyone badmouthed them. For some reason, I could never understand why the other girls did that because, after all, Jesus was a Jew. Maybe because I was lonely and unpopular I could be afford to be different in my beliefs. My parents were anti-Semitic and racist, and I despised them for it. Still, to this day, I ask myself “why didn’t I feel the same way?”

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would have a multi-racial grand daughter. My daughter married a beautiful Muslim man from Mauritania. They are the proud parents of a beautiful, intelligent girl, who is now seven. Ages ago, I remember someone asking me how I felt about having a multi-racial grandchild and in all honesty, I said that I never gave it a second thought. I was there a couple of days after she was born, and she and I have adored each other ever since. In hindsight, that question may have appeared insensitive; however, I think it took a lot of courage to ask it.

So why do I think racism is instinctual? Because I notice that whenever I see someone who is different from me, instantly something inside me wants to reject them. Perhaps there is some kind of tribal protection deep within our primitive brain that programs us to react that way. Of course, if I think someone has wronged me, I really want to dislike them. Then my mindfulness antenna goes up and I try my best to see things from their point of view.

Could it be that the story of Adam and Eve eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge is about our gaining the ability to over ride our instincts through practicing unconditional love and using our intellect to observe and dispel those primal tribal instincts? Certainly, those instincts served us well when we were cavemen; however, for us to survive as a global society, surely we must abandon them.