In class we discussed attitudinal and behavioral precursors to racial conception. Specifically, we noted the role religious myth played in grounding and justifying discrimination. Even before Africans as a race were regarded to be racially inferior, Noah’s cursed son Ham was cited as the source of these people’s alleged inequality. After much research and debate, and great effort on the part of oppressed, scientific evidence suggests that races are not inherently unequal, race is only a social construct. The perceived curse of Ham and conceived notions of race have served and still serve as modes to explain preconceived ideas about innate superiority.
Is the desire for superiority innate in us? I think it is. When one becomes separate and distinct from the other, comparison inevitably follows. One of the most basic judgments between two objects is that of pure value: which is better? If you belong to one of the objects involved, obviously you will desire the superior status. The sense of superiority may be achieved in a variety of ways, and, as history demonstrates time and time again, need not require or reflect any actual superiority.
Civilized peoples regarded themselves as superior to the uncivilized—and still do. Christian crusaders and missionaries regarded themselves as superior to those who had yet to see the light. In each of these cases, as in most, when the one distinguishes itself from the rest, it is with an air of superiority. This is because we rarely make conscious effort to distinguish our inferiority. Egocentric ideas about this self-superiority often produce unfounded notions about the other’s inferiority.
These ideas have adverse effects. While there may be nothing inherently wrong with believing oneself superior in one’s faith and in the eyes of the Lord, the same is not the case when such personal notions lead to direct action against the other party (of whom is often—at least initially—ignorant of its inferiority). Examples are endless, and most result in the self-righteous group pillaging and exploiting the perceived inferior for selfish gains, always justified. Race is just one example of this general phenomenon.
The fact that peoples can be made to believe themselves superior based on entirely fabricated grounds, coupled with the justifiability of crude behavior when its object is deemed inferior, produces a powerful political weapon. Such tactics have been implemented in crusades, exploitation of black slave labor, Nazi persecution of Jews, McCarthyism, and are still used today to justify American occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq. Racism is merely a symptom or manifestation of this notion of superiority and its ramifications.