Q. I’ve heard you say that while “bias” (related to issues of safety) is innate, bigotry, racism, and prejudice are learned. Whatever do you mean by that?

A.  Bias that is inappropriately managed can quickly turn into prejudice, racism, and bigotry, to name just a few—all of which can become deeply ingrained in the brain. They can impact all interactions, running in the background much like apps can run in the background on a mobile phone.

Unless small children have learned to dislike other children based on gender or race or skin color, they tend to play quite well together and don’t seem to particularly register “differences.” However, children observe their parents and other adults and can pick up prejudice, bigotry, and racism quite quickly—along with bullying behaviors and violence. There may also be some impact from biological ancestors transmitted through cellular memory (Epigenetics). This can include prejudice related not just to race, gender, or skin color, but also to politics, education, religion, and you name it.

Fortunately, as human beings have the opportunity to become acquainted with others who are different from them, they can “learn” to avoid blanket prejudice based on externals alone. After all, the brain is the same color and blood looks red regardless of gender or skin color.

 

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