White Ethnocentrism: Can Americans Really Be Brainwashed?

By Kevin MacDonald

One of the great intellectual divides is the venerable nature/nurture dichotomy.

Conservatives tend to be on the side of nature:

Race exists as a biological reality; there are race differences in socially important traits like IQ; people’s brains are wired to prefer people like themselves; they are more likely to contribute to public goods like health care and education if the beneficiaries are of the same ethnic group; people trust others more if they live in homogeneous societies.

The left takes the opposite tack:

Race doesn’t exist; the idea that it does exist is a fantasy of moral reprobates. To the extent that differences in traits like IQ are interesting at all, they are the result of capitalism, discrimination, or general evil. If it weren’t for white people behaving badly, we could easily build a strong, racially diverse multicultural society where all people can live happily ever after.

I am not going to try to convince you of the merits of either side of this debate. Over the years, VDARE.COM has certainly published some of the premier writers on the nature side.

But if you pick up the New York Times, you’ll get a very different version of these issues. It’s a version which, sad to say, has a lot more influence.

So what makes culture so powerful and how does it work at the psychological level?

Psychologists have shown that there are two different types of processing systems—the implicit and the explicit.

Implicit processing is the way the ancient parts of our brain operate—automatically and unconsciously.

Say you are talking to a salesman about a used car. Without any conscious effort on your part, your brain is processing an enormous amount of information. Some parts of your brain are processing the colors and shapes of the furniture, while others are responsible for recognizing the face of the salesman and picking up on his emotional expressions. Your brain is also assessing how similar this salesman is to yourself, and, without any conscious awareness on your part, it is making you trust him more if he is more like yourself. Furthermore, if he is from a different race or ethnic group, it is flagging that fact and it is coloring your interactions with stereotypes—whether negative or positive—that your unconscious mind associates with that race or ethnic group.

These implicit mechanisms – psychologists call them “modules” – are like zombies or robots. They go about their business without any conscious effort, and quite a few of them are beyond our control.

A good example is the face recognition module. If I am looking at someone I know, I can’t help but recognize him. I can’t simply turn off the module. The module takes in the information from the environment and simply does its thing in a preprogrammed way.

Importantly, the implicit brain includes mechanisms related to ethnocentrism. There are several different evolved mechanisms that make us prefer people like ourselves and be wary of people in outgroups.

Phil Rushton’s Genetic Similarity Theory [PDF] is a good example.   Birds of a feather do indeed flock together. People tend to make friends and marry people who are like themselves on a wide range of traits, from IQ and personality, to ethnic group and even wrist size.

Research in Genetic Similarity Theory finds a biological basis to this flocking tendency. Each system of genes wants to reporoduce itself, and has the best chance of doing so if it chooses to mate with a system of genes which has some overlap.

But some aspects of ethnocentrism may be learned as well. The human mind is prone to rapidly learning negative stereotypes about outgroups. And even if these stereotypes are learned, they act just like the biological ones—they are triggered automatically via implicit processing.

The point is that in either case people tend to have negative stereotypes of other races and they prefer people from their own race. But, of course, that’s not the end of the story—only the beginning.   

Article At VDare Continues HERE


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