Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bigotry a Family Issue


Recently, forward Joel Ward, scored the winning goal for the Boston Bruins in the seventh and final game of a National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup playoff series.  His teammates swarmed him.  So did racists.

Ward (right) is black.

He has ignored the racist taunts and outright hatred.  President Barack Obama has had to do the same thing.  Much of the political criticism he faces daily arises from deep-seated racism.

That kind of blind hatred does not exist in isolation.  Anti-Semitism is flourishing as well.  According to a recent Anti-Defamation League survey, “The past two years have seen a rise in anti-Semitism among Americans, with 15 percent of Americans, some 35 million people, said to ‘hold deeply anti-Semitic views.’”

That’s a three percent increase since 2009, the last time a similar survey was conducted.

What could possibly be fueling such absurd animosity?

It can’t be science, which has increasing demonstrated how alike we all are.  DNA testing worldwide has found that all humans, regardless of religion or ethnic background, are virtually identical.  Europeans have a smattering of Neanderthal (left) DNA; Asians have a few bits of genes from a humanoid species that once lived there.  That’s it.

We all contain genes for hair color, skin color etc.  They just get expressed differently.

It can’t be history.  Jews and Africans have been among the most abused people of history.  There’s no reason to regurgitate the disgusting past.  The real change in their status came in the 20th century as Jews and Blacks arose to prominence in a variety of fields. 

Regardless, they were just like everyone else.  Some were incredible leaders: Ralph Bunche, Thurgood Marshall, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Albert Einstein (right); Sigmund Freud, Jonah Salk.  Others show up on the wrong side of the ledger.

It can’t be logic.  Jews and Blacks are still minorities, overwhelmed by majorities.  They don’t dictate policy.  They don’t do anything that their counterparts don’t do.

Some of it is historical: Jews were long condemned as “Christ killers,” an absurd canard that defies both history and biblical teachings. They were forced into two detested professions: moneylending and tax collecting.  The opprobrium of money still clings to them, despite the fact Jews range across the income spectrum   Blacks carry the stench of slavery, something forced upon them.

None of that explains the continued hatred.  Only human nature does.

Jews and Blacks are targeted for a basic aspect of human nature: we vs. they.  Humans evolved in small clans, quick to fight off any outsiders.  We still act that way, although our clans may be labeled a country.  We remain territorial, fearful of outsiders, sure of our own superiority.

We reinforce that attitude by debasing others who don’t belong.

That’s why a moron of a congressman, Rep. Allen West (R-Fla) can recently call Democrats “communists” and later Nazis. No, they aren’t.  They simply disagree with Allen.  His response was to spew insults, akin to those faced by Ward this year or by Sen. Joe Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, in the 2000 Presidential election. It's ironic because West (left) is black.

There’s no easy solution, not when human nature dictates distrust of others outside the clan.  Nevertheless, education is a help.  Knowledge tends to widen the mind, to let in light and widen perspectives.  After all, genetically, we are all linked – everyone is human, regardless of anything else.

One colleague thought lust would help reduce the problem. She may have a point.  Recent studies have shown that interracial marriages are at an all-time high.  The Pew Research Center reported that “nearly one out of seven new marriages in the U.S. is interracial or inter-ethnic. The report … found racial lines are blurring as more people choose to marry outside their race.”

Then, too, in time, we may all become one family.  I recall a professor at the University of New Haven who noted how Jewish families in his native Greece somehow began to look Greek after a couple of generations.  That was just familiarity smoothing over seeming differences.

Such a future is something to look forward to.  In the interim, we will all have to endure the sad abuse of successful individuals who are still not considered part of the family.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at www.williamplazarus.com.  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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