We know from Part 1 that all humans are biased. We have stereotypes, we are prejudiced and we discriminate. We know that’s human nature; we need to do it and it’s OK. So, why has bias got a bad name? It’s because of the impact that our bias has on other people, its inadequacy, its unfairness. It affects all people, we do it to others and others do it to us. In this part, I want to cover one of the worst aspects of human bias and that’s racism. In particular, white/black racism. That will bring us to Black Lives Matter and Edward Colston’s statue.


If you believe that the human species can be categorised on the basis of physical features and, if you believe that those categories tell us something about other characteristics like intelligence, morality, and ability and, if you believe that those characteristics are innate and unchangeable and, if you believe that categorisation enables us to rank groups from superior to inferior, from good to bad and so on, then you are a racist. You are not, however, evil or a lost cause. You are the victim of human nature that leads you to categorise, that makes you see your ingroup as superior to your outgroup, and you have a false model of the world that you learned from others.

The idea of race as some kind of sub-category of species, that there is more than one kind of human is a nonsense. It has no basis in science and, despite huge efforts to demonstrate its truth, no-one ever has. It is an invention by dominant groups to satisfy their sense of superiority, to inflate their egos. Worse, it is a way to justify their treatment of less powerful groups. If you can show that an outgroup is inferior, then you can make their subservience their fault. There is nothing modern or European or white about this, it has been happening since humans gathered in large social groups. It got a whole lot worse when some groups needed cheap sources of labour to support their lifestyle and satisfy their ambitions. The history of race, and the exploitation of weaker groups by the stronger is far too long and complex to cover here. If you have the time, then read this https://www.britannica.com/topic/race-human and find out a lot more.

Without doubt, the worst example of racial abuse in modern times was the enslavement of Africans by Europeans as a means of increasing production and wealth at low cost. This was not a new experience for Africans. They had been slaves to the Arabs, Romans and others for years and, in many cases, slaves to their fellow Africans. For Europeans, this behaviour was relatively easy to justify by the bogus explanation that blacks were inferior to whites. The significant difference in colour was an easy symbol by which to distinguish one from the other. The false association of colour with other characteristics was a gift. Even for a deeply religious society, where ‘loving thy neighbour’ was a golden rule, the lie that black people were uncivilised, unintelligent and savage was convenient. The deception that they were less than human made their abominable treatment acceptable.


With all this happening over many years, slavery, discrimination, apartheid, and pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo about race, people formed subconscious stereotypical mind models that are reinforced in groups and perpetuate over generations. So far, I have referred to the white European ingroup model of the black African outgroup. But, of course, this also works in reverse. As an ingroup, black Africans and their descendants will form a mind model of white Europeans. It may be something like ‘an arrogant, overbearing, abusive, violent, aggressive and evil monster’. Now, you might not like that if you’re of white European descent. It may not be what you are but you might be able to understand why it’s a credible model. Now imagine being thought of as ‘unintelligent, uncivilised, immoral, heathen, savage, almost, but not quite, human’. You probably wouldn’t like to be thought of that way either.

This situation is made worse by the fact that the trigger which brings these models to the surface is so clear and obvious, it’s literally ‘staring you in the face’. It’s the colour of your skin. What we end up with is hardly a recipe for a peaceful, harmonious co-existence of the two groups. Does understanding any of this help us to find ways to change as individuals and societies? I think so and I certainly hope so.


For each of us to change and for society to change as a whole, we must firstly accept that we are biased and that we have subconscious mind models that guide our actions. Then we must agree that the current situation is unacceptable and that we want to change. We also need to accept that change will be hard and will take a long time, we are talking about undoing hundreds of years of bias. Finally, we must figure out how and then act on it. If you can’t get past acceptance and agreement, then you will never change and neither will society.

In words, it sounds fairly straightforward. ‘Change the mind models to change the way we think and what we do’. Unfortunately, we are up against human nature and evolution so that won’t be easy. But we can try. As with all significant problems, there are two parts to the solution, address the symptoms and then fix the causes so that there are no symptoms. The way society fixes symptoms is through changes in the law, and we are working on that. Laws have been introduced to try and create equality, a level playing field, to make discrimination illegal and to protect everyone’s rights, especially minorities. But laws only work if people want them to and they are capable of enforcement. Discrimination is such an insidious disease that it is hard to spot and even harder to control.

What is really necessary is to change the ingroup models of the outgroups. This is largely a matter of changing stereotypes. At the heart of this are three issues, history, psychology and race. History first. We cannot change history but we don’t have to remind everyone about it in ways that perpetuate stereotypes. We should learn from it, not live in it. Instead of teaching our children about slavery and discrimination in ways that reinforce the stereotypes, we should be teaching about its immorality, its unacceptability, its consequences and its evils. We should reinforce our words with actions and remove all symbols of slavery and discrimination that show them, and the people responsible, in a positive light. We should replace them with symbols that demonstrate our commitment to equality and those who have worked tirelessly to deliver it.

In the same way that we teach children about how the world works, we should teach them about how their minds work. Not so that they can change human nature but so that they can understand the limitations and risks of that nature. If they can understand what makes them think the way they do, how they are influenced by their environment and other people, then they will be better able to control their own attitudes and behaviour.

The word ‘race’ should never be used in government, law or education. There should be no place on official forms for the word or for the collection of ‘racial’ data. It is lazy, meaningless and unhelpful. Why? Because it plays to historic stereotypes and models, it gives them credibility. If we are content to use the word then it must have some truth and real meaning. But what does it mean? If we mean skin colour, then say so. If it means physical characteristics and attributes, then say so. If it means more than that, then it is racist. We should stop pursuing the idea of multi-culturalism. Although I understand the intention to be worthy, it perpetuates stereotypes, categorisation and segregation by colour.

What can we do as individuals? The most important thing is to raise the issue from our subconscious to our conscious mind. Not all the time, we have plenty of other things to think about. But, if we don’t give this some of our thoughtful time, nothing will change. We need to reason with ourselves about our personal models, our stereotypes, prejudices and behaviour and try to manage them, try to correct our models. We need to help our children and grandchildren to manage their thoughts and models by being careful about what we say and do and helping them to do the same.


Finally, that brings me at last to Black Lives Matter and Edward Colston’s statue. When people declare ‘black lives matter’ you may be tempted to respond with ‘so do white’. When someone tears down a statue, you might automatically think ‘vandalism, lock them up’. When role models ‘take the knee’ you may see it as cynical tokenism. In a sense, you are not wrong and violence and vandalism have no place in civilised society. But these are opportunities to raise important questions in your conscious mind. To ask ‘why are they doing it?’ To try to understand the mind model that makes people take action. To, at least, consider the possibility that they may have a point to make even if their actions are dubious.

And that is the point of activism. To bring the issue front and centre. To get our attention and make us think. This is politics in the raw and sometimes politics has to be extreme to get society to take notice, especially when the majority of us have other things on our mind. In the end, you or I might not agree with what is done but at least we will have thought about it.