Waiting for sense to dawn about racism

“The Church is institutionally racist” says thee Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, a black, born and lived in Jamaica until she was 21.  “I do not believe that the Church recognises that we are there, she adds.  “With my hand on my heart, I do not believe that the Church recognises and embraces its minority ethnic membership.”

She ought to know — she’s priest vicar at Westminster Abbey and chaplain to the Queen, but also Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons. She was speaking on BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme.  It’s understandable.  The racism label, if you want to use it, applies equally well to many large organisations, public or private and in many towns, cities and regions.

It’s because we all, visibly or not, live and work in tribes. protecting ourselves from any significant incursion from outsiders, whether of physical habits or cognitive beliefs. There is one exception to this in all cultures.  There are also much smaller groups to which we belong.

Some of these groups  — whether we’re consciously of them or not — contain no more than about a dozen mature adults who are comfortable with one another’s role.  Some of these groups are active during the working day and others in leisure time.  Any attempts of outsiders in any number to gain entrance will be rebuffed, either aggressively or deviously.  This is what modern liberals call racism, but it’s actually instinctive, or automatic, and applies in all cultures.

Individuals who wish to gain entrance as individuals to a group — usually to one higher in the social order — can do so by modelling themselves meticulously in the idiosyncracies and qualifications of the target group.  He then has a chance of being accepted with little pain, or even being offered an invitation. One such entrant per group in a given length of time would be plenty.

All this and a great deal more that’s relevant in thinking about racism is being revealed by evolutionary biology.  Most of the major breakthroughs have come since the Human Genome Project in 2000.  Another two or three decades to pass will be necessary before the lessons being learned will be filtering into the minds of governments and senior civil servants.

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