After the Dallas shootings this past Thursday, Channel 11 in Houston staged a “town hall meeting” to discuss the current unrest. The panel featured local law-enforcement officials (retired), a sociology professor, the local head of the NAACP, and a few others; and was moderated by Deborah Duncan, a local TV personality. It may not be germane to this post, but for those unfamiliar with Houston TV, Duncan is black, is married to a white man, and they have a mixed-race son.
I was about to decide that watching this meeting was a total waste of time – each panelist was politely pushing his own agenda, or simply repeating platitudes – when Duncan made a point that stopped me in my tracks.
She pointed out that, since the beginnings of humanity, people have banded together in tribes in order to survive, and this tribalism is so inbred as to be part of our DNA. Nobody, not even the sociology teacher, picked up on her remark, and the meeting continued as if it had never been said.
I think she nailed the problem on the head.
Whatever you may think about us all sharing a common ancestor – whether you get your opinion from religion or science – our innate tribal instinct causes even the least prejudiced among us to notice differences among those we meet and to have feelings, based on those perceived differences that range from mild discomfort to outright distrust.
The “Us vs. Them” mentality being hard-wired into our psyche explains wars, genocide, prejudice, and just about every other evil known to man. It doesn’t offer a solution – it may even hint that no solution is possible – but it does go a long way toward defining the problem.