Racism – An ugly word, with uglier social implications, with the ugliest outcomes in many cases. Racism is a behavior; the discrimination based on racial differences are daily common occurrence. There is no debating that racism is a social issue, a social disease.
It is human nature, we react differently to different situations; we respond in our own ways to those who appear different from us. The racism is a product of our culture; a part of our ignorance about other cultures, about other people.
The way we are raised, the way we are educated and the way our surroundings are – all little things add up to affect our thinking, consciously or subconsciously.
They say that the racism is all in our brain, the way we think. Many times, we may not even know that we are subconsciously discriminating. For example, our education may teach us to be fair and equal to all, but our childhood upbringing may have taught us differently. Just the way things were around us, when we were growing up, leaves a lasting impression on our thinking, on our behavior. I am not racist, but my brain might be! It is hard to escape from the treacheries of our deep seeded thoughts. Some times, we are just puppets in our own body, controlled by the subconscious actions.
The subconscious prejudices are part of our personality, part of our normal reactions. It’s all in our head, how be behave – consciously, or subconsciously.
But could it be in our heart as well? Well, researchers at Oxford University have discovered that a common drug used to treat heart disease also lowers racist attitudes. In the study, volunteers who took small doses of propranolol, a beta blocker, scored lower on tests which detect “subconscious racism” than the volunteers who took a placebo. It is worth noting that this pill only influenced implicit racism—whether people had a subconscious negative or positive association with pictures of people of different races, in this case. When the participants were asked to rate how “warm” they felt toward different racial groups, a test which measured explicit racism, the pill had no discernible effect.
Interesting! I wonder why the pill that works on heart diseases actual affects something in the brain!..
The scientists believe the drug works to lower feelings of bias because it acts on the part of the brain that regulates fear and emotional response. In fact, propranolol is also used to treat panic and anxiety disorders and to reduce blood pressure. So it makes sense, if your subconscious reactions to people different than you are based on fear, that they’d be altered by propranolol.
So, the racism and the the prejudices are all in the head, really! It is going to take a lot more than a pill to undo the ‘training’ that our brain has received about biases and prejudices since our childhood. It is going to need a conscious effort to change the social behavior around us, so that the next generation can grow in a less biased society. That is the key to change the unconscious effects on our brain – only by consciously and repeatedly changing our actions and our surroundings to minimize these biases.
What’s next? I am waiting or a pill that cures the world hunger! Anyone?
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