Survival of the Whitest

by Philip Lacasse on October 16, 2015 - 12:28am

In “Twist on evolutionary theory could help explain racism and other forms of prejudice” (Science Daily, April 29, 2015), the authors explain that a new research model developed by DB Krupp and Peter Taylor of Queen's University and the One Earth Future Foundation found that people who visually differ from the norm of their society become selfless and caring towards those who are similar to them and only slightly malicious towards those who are unlike them. On the other hand, people who are visually similar to the norm of their society become only slightly selfless and caring towards those who are similar to them and very malicious towards those who are unlike them. They may even go to extreme measures to abuse them. According to Krupp, people who are physically similar to their group discriminate against people who are different from the group due to an evolutionary need to increase the amount of similar genes in the next generation. The research model reveals that racism and prejudice in humans is supported by evolutionary behaviour that is meant to increase reproductive success of those who conform to the visual norms of society and decrease the reproductive success of those who stand out. 

In my opinion, there definitely are some natural evolutionary reasons for discrimination and racism such as the need to maximize reproductive success. However, I feel as though it is a weak excuse for racism and I think people should know better than to blindly say that racism is caused by evolution. I feel bad even saying that I agree with the article because I feel as though it is simply giving people an excuse or justification for being racist while passing the blame on reasons that are out of their control. That being said, Krupp and Taylor do not explain the scientific process or reasoning for why they came to the conclusion that they did about their evolutionary findings. They almost expect the reader to simply take their word for it. Despite their lack of explanation, Krupp and Taylor’s work is supported by the 2012 CNN report that we watched in class titled “Kids on Race”. The report revealed that when presented with ambiguous pictures of interracial activity between two children, 70% of white children saw something negative as opposed to only 38% of black children. This supports Krupp and Taylor’s claim that people who are visually similar to the norm of their society tend to have more malicious opinions of minorities than minorities have towards people with the common appearance by showing how negatively they perceive ambiguous interaction between the “races”. It also supports that it is an evolutionary characteristic by showing how this behaviour starts almost naturally from such a young age. Overall, although I believe their claim to an extent, I think someone’s character and upbringing is ultimately much more of a determining factor for their racial prejudice than any evolutionary characteristic.

Comments

I chose to comment on this article because of the somewhat controversial, yet captivating title. The title is rather interesting because it makes it seem like white individuals are struggling to stay relevant in our species which is not something one would usually consider as the Caucasian ethnicity is usually predominant in developed countries. However,the title is actually a description of the circumstances in which individuals of the visual norm unconsciously attempt to further their chances at continued reproduction (and subsequently try to lower the chances of individuals different from the visual norm). I can understand how these evolutionary traits of sticking to those similar to you can help with reproductive success however, much like the author's opinion, I believe the way someone is raised and their circumstances to be a stronger determinant for racial prejudice. I can relate this post to the Jane Eiliot classroom exercise on eye colour where students seemingly group up against students of a different eye colour simply because they were told one color was superior/inferior to the other. It makes sense that a minority group would try to appeal those similar to them as well as those different from them. Another quality article with an interesting analysis that relates well to material taught in class. However I do wonder, would the results from studies like these be different if African-Americans held more positions of power than Caucasians?

Your title immediately caught my attention, and I was glad that I choose to read your article since it is a scientific founding I was not aware of. It is an interesting subject, containing its dose of controversy nonetheless. I was glad to see your opinion on the issue since I completely agree with you. Honestly, as I began to read, I thought what the research proclaimed seemed logical, but I too found it dangerously close to being a simple excuse to commit acts of racism.
I like how you also interpret the viewers’ thoughts, that simply because it is said by researchers then it must be the truth. Unfortunately, I believe people do take the time or care to verify the information they receive. However, as you said, this “discovery” is for many people an easy way out of the guilt they must feel for acting in discriminatory manners, which is why they accept it so easily, and do not take time to reflect upon it.
This issue reminds me of the concept of scientific racism, which we have discussed in class, and in which racism can be “justified” by scientific reasoning. Hopefully, we will learn from our past mistakes, and instead use reason to guide our decisions. In contrast, I hope since we discard so easily scientific founding that “justifies” racism, we will not jump the gun on further evidence found against racism.