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Why does racism happen?

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I'm not racist I hate everyone equally. Just kidding, racism is a learned behavior. You're either taught it or you have bad experiences with a race and just clump the whole race together, but every race has those few people that other races hate. There's a different person in ever body so treat everyone as individuals not a race. babies don't come out with hate!!

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Well said!
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Thanks
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People get scared...

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Everyone wants to feel superior to someone, that's human nature. It's also human nature to be suspicious of strangers. When someone looks different from you, it is a normal reaction to consider them (1) vaguely threatening, and (2) inferior to you. Racism is an established way to justify these irrational feelings. By pretending that an entire group of people is "inferior," you rationalize your fear of them and find someone to feel better than. It's not restricted to whites and blacks. The Japanese hold similar views on the Chinese. Look at the conflicts in Africa and Bosnia, where thousands of people that appear to us Americans as virtually identical were killed because of perceived differences. Same with the current conflict between Sunni and Shia in the Middle East. It requires rational thought to understand that these feelings have no real basis, so racism tends to be most prevalent among stupid people.

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Thanks, that makes a lot more sense now.
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Nice summary.
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unbiased and realistic.
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Often times it originates when members of one tribe act against members of another tribe. Since ancient times the perpetrators of these criminal acts were often captured and used as slaves, as payment for their crimes. As time passed, animosity grew between the tribes. If acts of murder were perpetrated against members of a tribe, it's not hard to see the difficulty of some to forgive.

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On slavery: most slavery was not "punishment for crimes," but merely a consequence of being conquered by another tribe. Witness Rome. Thousands of Africans were captured and sold into slavery in the West by rival tribes.
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They dont like anyone differnt from them.

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The earliest humans were grouped by families. Any human who didn't look like the members of your own family were considered in competition for what were often scarce resources and, therefore, were seen as a threat. Then families learned they had a better chance of survival if they banded with other families and became a tribe. Still, other tribes who looked or behaved differently were seen as a threat. That was good for survival of our species at that time.

This trend of merging for survival benefits has continued into the formation of nations, yet when we encounter a person who looks or acts differently, we still have an initial and innate response to become defensive. The difference is that by now we have all figured out (or should have) that we no longer live in the days of early man, and that we have the ability to consciously over-ride that innate skepticism so society can be more inclusive, thereby reaping the benefits of shared skills and new ways to approach problems, which have continued to make life better for us all.

Bottom line: Evolution created racism, but it also created our ability to over-ride it and combat it for the betterment of all.

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Probably best to learn to recongize one's own prejudices, and replace them with curiosity, I think. Nice answer, btw.:) I think a lot of it has to do with generalization based on association, and a lot of it comes from what we see in the media, rather than actual encounters. Many people's ideas are very limited in this way.
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@Shaylen: I grew up in the segregated south, and the racism I learned was a product of acculturation, and was, as is all bigotry, based on irrationality (not only the failure to apply reason, but to even recognize the need to do so). It is simply the tendency for an object at rest to remain at rest until it is acted upon by an external force. The civil rights movement then (like the gay rights movement now) was the external force which began to move people toward rational thought on the subject of race.
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This is a good point: socialized species like humans tend to band together in groups and treat outsiders as the enemy. We see exactly the same behavior in many species of primate. Having a distinctive feature, such as dark skin or semitic facial features, makes it easy to distinguish the "different" and assign our distrust to a whole population. It requires intellectual honesty to recognize this trait and counteract it, which is why all racists are, at heart, stupid.
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...or they are all, at heart, unevolved creatures.
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Stay on this site long enough and you will learn plenty on how to hate. Black vs white. Libs vs conser. Rep vs Dem. should I keep going?

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Left Twix vs. right twix.
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Racism is learned, just like language. Which means you can unlearn it - but that would require a reason to do so. It is easier to do when you live in an environment where there is a mixture of cultures (because you are constantly interacting with them) than in an environment where there is a very large majority of one culture (where you have no opportunity to interact with different cultures).

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@Virrey: Very true. That reminds me that people often say you can't legislate human nature. But I was an adult during the first days of affirmative action and as it turned out, that program did legislate a change in human nature. As the majority was forced to work along side minorities and women, they began to see them, as you eluded, as people rather than an abstract entity. And rather than killing workplace morale and American productivity as was predicted, this country experienced a Renaissance of innovation.
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