The Psychodynamics of Xenophobia and Racism



I have been contemplating the recent shooting in South Carolina and can conclude without much intellectual effort, that many (white) Americans are still as racist towards blacks as they were in 1861. In addition they really ask only two things of their political representatives: keep our taxes low and don’t touch our guns. The subject of guns is for another essay.

Americans hold onto their ancient 2nd amendment rights with fanaticism, forgetting that it was designed to arm militia in the fight against British colonialism. But the weaponry of the time were flintlock muskets not AR 15’s. The advantage of the former is that it takes a minimum of 20 seconds to load and fire and thus one has time to practice anger management skills. A second sober thought as it were. This is augmented by misfires in rainy weather.

On the subject of racism this is of course not uniquely American. They came by it honestly having inherited it from the British-those class conscious imperialists who coined terms like wog or kaffir to describe those of darker complexion. They even held on tightly to the discredited theories of Friedrich Gall who invented phrenology.

Antebellum Americans grabbed onto that theory to justify black African inferiority. There have been (unscientific) genetic theories to explain racism, though xenophobia that I have discussed previously, may have genetic roots as a substrate to limbic generated survival.

However with racism paranoid thinking errors are at the heart of the denigration of those who are different in some way and that is conscious choice.Though initially survival oriented, the traits of cooperation, empathy and altruism have dominated human social and cultural evolution for the past few millenia. This is more so within distinct and homogenous culture groupings.

Racism is dated but remains active in those of lesser intellect and sophistication. Those who are marginalized, alienated or threatened need a scapegoat to blame. Or they are simply sociopathic. Such was the case with Nazi anti-Jewish eugenic theorizing.

A distinction therefore should be made between xenophobia and racism. The former views foreign cultures with suspicion and fear based on the relative safety and comfort of a homogenous society. This explains why the French, normally a liberal and tolerant people banned the burka. And justifiably so as an extrusion of alien  non humanist sexist ideation which is not religiously but culturally based.

Racism however focuses on superiority and is used to dehumanize others in the interest of power and control, leading to subjugation or extermination. The dehumanization of the latter process requires a new language. The American lexicon has given us new terms for despised and ‘dangerous’ foreign folks…
Koreans..  zipperhead

This is to be differentiated from xenophobic terminology designed to extrude and even humour rather than search and destroy..

Irish..micks (from the Mc at the front of the surname)
Italian… wop (without papers or world organization of peasants)
Arab…camel jockey

There is a very fine line of course here and for those so inclined here is a complete  list….

Racism as choice is irrational by definition and serves no legitimate function other than perpetuation of the dark side of human psyche. The underlying dynamic is inadequacy and low self-worth and that is of course denied in the interest of self-preservation and projected onto the other seen as the source of misery.The classic example being antisemitism. Projection is a psychotic symptom as it has no logical reality based foundation.
As it turns out in the USA, the most racist states are in the south which also are heavily republican, elsewhere described as a DSM disorder.

At a broader level the “dumbing down of America” seems to be perpetuating racial ignorance.

A recent national poll, found that 42 per cent of Americans are “not too” or “not at all” confident that all life on Earth is the product of evolution. Similarly, 51 per cent of people expressed skepticism that the universe started with a “big bang” 13.8 billion years ago, and 36 per cent doubted the Earth has been around for 4.5 billion years. This anti science environment is one where Jenny McCarthy, a former Playboy model with a high school education, can become a worldwide leader of the anti-vaccination movement, naysaying the advice of medical professionals and where the Kardashians can have a voice on NPR.

So one cannot expect tolerance and rationalism to prevail in a country that has values like South Carolina, where  a school girl wanted a mammoth to be the state fossil..”The Columbian Mammoth, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field, is designated as the official State Fossil of South Carolina and must be officially referred to as the ‘Columbian Mammoth’, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field.” As opined by South Carolinian legislators.

God  help us.

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