The end of racism


For a long time I used to think that for racism to truly end, we would need a society where we don't look at race at all. E.g., if you were to look at an Asian guy standing next to a Black guy standing next to a White guy, you would just see three guys (not three guys of different races).


I was wrong. My understanding of the definition of racism was wrong. Because, in some sense, what I was really saying was that only poly-culturalism can truly end racism. (Multiculturalism is when different cultures co-exist. Polyculturalism is when different cultures turn into one -- kind of like cultural assimilation to the max). Because the ability to completely overlook racial differences can only come if we stop associating race with differences in culture, language, physical built, etc. And for that to happen, we would need, say, an average Asian person to be identical to an average White person in terms of the way they talk, their abilities, food preferences, etc.


It turns out that we don't need these impossible conditions to end racism. The problem is not that racial differences exist, but that we view one race as superior or inferior due to these differences. So all we have to do to end racism is to stop thinking of any one race as superior or inferior others. Sounds pretty simple, but our tendency to place value judgments makes it difficult. It's okay to identify a person with their race. It's even okay to acknowledge racial differences. But it's not okay to call these differences good or bad. It's also not okay to assume, to generalize, based on stereotypes.


For example, the average White person is taller than the average Asian person. Is it a racial difference? Well, yes -- it's a systematic difference across two racial groups, so yes it is a racial difference. Is being taller a good thing? No -- and this is the crucial part. We need to stop associating racial differences with value judgments. This means we need to rewire our brain into thinking that being taller is neither a good thing nor a bad thing.


Let's have some more fun with this. Suppose you're about to meet two candidates for an interview, a White male and an Asian male. Do you think the White guy will be taller than the Asian guy? (not that it matters, of course) Well, if you answer yes, then statistically you would have a higher probability of being right than wrong, but you'd also be generalizing based on a stereotype -- and that's not right.


This -- ignoring stereotypes -- is the real key to ending racism. And the fact that stereotypes are statistically accurate makes this even harder. Perhaps, instead of thinking of stereotypes as incorrect, it would be easier to tell ourselves that we will never meet this so-called average person who these stereotypes are about. In fact, we would do well to convince ourselves that all the people we will ever meet in our lives are going to be very different from the average person of their race, so any racial differences or stereotypes will never help us in our personal interactions.