Opinion: Racism, Dogs, and Our Primitive Brains

We can be better.

I love this article RunPee Dan wrote about how bigotry used to have an evolutionary advantage for early man. This discussion was sparked by The Hate U Give,  a movie out just this week, delving into the timely topics of race, bigotry, and prejudice in our culture. Racism has been a frequent topic in film for many long years, and unfortunately, it’s still something society grapples with.  

I was talking to the RunPee family yesterday about just this: something a lot of people don’t know is that we’re not the only racist animals. Dogs and chimps have demonstrated this too, and even more ancient creatures. Watch any school of fish, or what happens in your own aquarium. There’s safely among one’s own kind.

When I worked with dogs, I noticed in person something I’d read about previously — that in a group/pack situation, dogs will seek out firstly others of their breed, and, failing that, will seek out dogs of its own color. So a black lab would look for other labs, or at least other black dogs. Eventually a dog would make its own ‘friends’ outside those boundaries, but those friendships still come with unassailable hierarchical positions. Dogs respect hierarchy above all else (the reason they obey us — if they do — is because they see us as higher in the pack scale as their Alpha, hopefully).

We see different as scary. We feel uneasy in a very primitive part of the brain when confronted with other. Fear and anxiety – and decision-making — are controlled in the amigdala, and that’s buried deeply in the brain’s cortex. Our primal limbic system tries to protect us with knee-jerk responses to a variety of potentially dangerous stimuli. Run! Fight! Hide! Bark! This worked for a long time and got us where we are today, with cities, surplus food for most, and even leisure time to pursue learning, creative endeavors, and the pursuit of happiness.

Hopefully, we’ve had enough cultural evolution by now to think mindfully instead of reactively to every new encounter. This kind of mindfulness is a major reason I treasure Star Trek so much. Star Trek shows an enlightened society where greed, racism, hunger, and war-like qualities are mostly eradicated, replaced with a Humanist outlook on life. Look at someone like Captain Jean-Luc Picard for the finest example of a Renaissance-level human ever in entertainment. The reason so many fans are pumped he has a  new Picard show in development is so we can watch our role model again, and feel inspired to be BETTER. (Also, Sir Patrick Stewart can read recipes out loud and make them sound like epic literature. ) So, yes, Star Trek FTW: I love this kind of positive outlook on the future. Not all entertainment has to be dark and gritty to be good.

I think my favorite part of Dan’s opinion article is about taking our racist brain parts out for a walk — to pet them, to tell them “different is okay”, and to let go of old, outmoded, instinctive fears. Yes, avoiding different was once a source of support and longevity. We in H. sapiens have had enough cycles of comfort and prosperity by now that we can TEACH ourselves to be more tolerant, less judgmental. (Which includes being tolerant of ourselves when we make the inevitable mistakes. There’s a learning curve.)

This is my hope. And, right, we have to work at it.  It does get easier, with practice. Constant vigilance! I believe we’ll get there in time, before the inevitable alien invasion arrives to MAKE us play well together.  😉

Through the Wormhole – Are We All Bigots?

Movie Review – The Hate U Give

Movie Review – BlacKkKlansman

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)

Through the Wormhole – Are We All Bigots?

Morgan Freeman has a Science Channel series called Through the Wormhole. I highly recommend the series for those interested in learning about a broad range of topics from is the universe a simulation to is privacy dead.

One of my favorite episodes is about the nature of racism: Are We All Bigots? In this episode Freeman comes at this question from a number of angles, as he does the topic in every episode. Below is, what I think, is one of the most important segments.

If you like that clip then I highly recommend you watch the entire episode. You can buy it on YouTube for $1.99 (No affiliation with RunPee.)

Opinion
I have to accept that part of my brain is bigoted. It does things (and sometimes gets away with it) that I don’t like.

That may sound like an odd thing to say: my brain does things that I don’t like. What am I if not my brain and it’s decisions? I think its clear, especially if you watch the entire episode of Are We All Bigots, that our brain instinctively makes decisions without the consent of our brain’s rational consciousness. (Not that consciousness is always rational.)

What researchers have proven is that we are not always in control of our thoughts and actions. It’s not an excuse for bad behavior, but it’s a reality we have to deal with. For instance, when someone is addicted to gambling, or food, a drug, whatever, you can’t attribute that to poor character, or weakness.

Our brains evolved to cope with many situations we no longer face. In this modern age we can manipulate those situations in ways that were never possible while the circuitry in our brains was evolving to help us survive. When we eat carbohydrate-rich food — bread, rice, cake, sweets, etc. — our brain says, “OMG, this is great. More please.” That’s because during our evolution there was hardly a chance that we could overeat those things because of their scarcity. That part of our brain doesn’t understand that we now have unlimited access to calories, and don’t need to overeat at each opportunity. The only way to stop ourselves is to use our rational consciousness to intervene and put the breaks on. Again, the rational part of our brain isn’t always in control — much as we might wish it.

It’s the same for how our brain reacts to people who are different from us. Generally speaking, for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, people from outside their tribe wasn’t always a good thing. Like a dog barking at a stranger, we evolved to be wary of different than us. It’s only through life experience that we can retrain our brains. Essentially, we need take that part of our brain that makes snap judgments and pet it, and say, “Hey, it’s okay. These different people are okay. Don’t get worked up.” Over time, that part of our brain will relax. But, we must recognize that it’s always there, ready to wake up again and bark at the next different person that passes by.

I want to make racism go away; from myself and my country and all of humanity. I believe the only way this will be possible is to acknowledge that part of our brains evolved to be wary of different people — because it gave them an edge in survival.

When we see racism, in ourselves or others, we need to make an effort to retrain us/them. And just like training a dog, the best method is positive reinforcement. Because when you yell at someone for being bigoted it’s about as effective as yelling at a dog — pointless and counterproductive. (Even though it feels as good as eating chocolate cake dripping with melted fudge and covered in icing.)

Creator of RunPee. Aspiring author.

Movie Review – The Hate U Give

 

Movie Review - The Hate U GiveI expected this movie adaptation of Angela Thomas’ book of the same name to be exactly what it was—-racially tensed and enlightening. While many people are aware of a few victims involved in police altercations that led to their deaths by police officers such as Trayvon Martin, Botham Shem Jean, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, and Laquan McDonald, what I noticed about this movie are the “other” victims. I specifically mean those present when the victims are killed by the police officers. When 16-year-old Starr’s childhood best friend, Khalil, gets shot and killed by a police officer during a out-of-the-blue traffic stop, she becomes a victim in her our mind, her school, and her community as she finds her voice to speak up for what’s right.

Let’s start with the title, The Hate U Give. The first letter of the title spells THUG. Why is that important?

Remember the late famous hip hop rapper Tupac Shakur and his large abdominal tattoo saying “Thug Life”? There are several references to Tupac that define the plot development of this movie, that the director purposely includes. Tupac’s tattoo was an acronym standing for ‘The Hate U Give Little Infants Fu$%s Everyone.’

Other Tupac similarities include Maverick ordering the kids to learn the Black Panther Ten-Point Program — which recalls how Tupac explained one time in an interview that he was a militant, and his definition of thug came from his street side and his Panther side (his mom’s activism with the political Black Panther Party).

Another not so obvious reference was that the car (the neighborhood drug dealer leader) King drives is a black BMW 7 Series sedan with chrome and custom rims. On the night of Tupac’s murder, he was riding in a black 1996 BMW 7 Series sedan with chrome, custom rims.

I think that people will assume that this is just a typical black movie with commonly known stereotypes about blacks, but I think you should also view it from a different perspective, and pay attention to scenes that remind you of the patterns you see during a few of the real-life police shootings.

For instance, when Khalil was pulled over by the police, he responded to the officer by saying things like “Why are you pulling me over?” “Why turn my music down? I can hear you” and “I have rights.” This scene reminded me of the aforementioned Sandra Bland who made similar comments during her police stop, and was then arrested because she refused to put out her cigarette.

This movie right out the gate made me smile as it portrayed something very common, or uncommon, in black households, and that is the family eating dinner together and having deep life conversations. The not so common part is that not all black families have a mom AND a dad present. One other thing I’ll mention that I loved about the film — is the role played by hip-hop rapper Common, as Starr’s uncle, who is also a police officer in the same department as the officer that killed Khalil.

Towards the end of the movie, Starr draws an important distinction out of her uncle, and that is the action taken by police officers when they stop a black guy, versus when they stop a well-dressed white guy. Uncle Carlos admits that his behavior and reactions ARE different and racially biased, even as a black police officer. EPIC scene!!!!!

Let me speak to how Starr’s victim role was so robust. This was not Starr’s first experience with a BFF being killed; this is her second experience, and all before the age of 16. Starr lived two lives as she eloquently states it: Garden Heights Starr Version 1, and Williamson High School Starr Version 2. She had to bounce between the hood and the upper class private school she attended. Those scenes with her black friends and then her white friends, including Starr’s white boyfriend, was very well written and portrayed, and will be very familiar to many of your lives.

Spoiler below

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I’ll point out somewhat of a spoiler. Don’t miss the very climactic hairbrush scene between Starr and her Williamson High good friend Hailey. It gives you a glimpse of how some white people really think, but just don’t say it to black people out loud like Hailey did. Pray church! It got ugly. LOL

On another note, Starr bounced between two life roles that silenced her for many reasons. It’s so ironic, because 19-year-old Amandla Stenberg herself played similar roles in real life. She struggled with not being black enough (her father is Danish), and bounced between being straight and bi-sexual for a few years before finally embracing her designated sexuality (lesbian), and breaking her silence thereof. I think it’s so rhythmic, using “her voice” to make an impact onscreen, as well as off-screen.

Watch this movie without your “backpack” of pre-judgments of what you think you already know. Stay Open-minded. Be Empowered. Stay Woke.

#TheHateYouGive #AmandlaStenberg #PoliceShootings #Movies #NewReleases #MovieReview #RunPee #FemaleMasterpiece #BlackGirlsRock #TheHungerGames #LGBT #LGBTQ

Grade: B+

About The Peetimes: It was a little difficult getting Peetimes, because each one contains a little dialogue or dramatized scene that may appeal to somebody. However, these are 2 good Peetimes, both lasting 3 minutes. The 1st has an Alert flagged on it for people who might feel triggered by funerals/death. . .

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Hate U Give. (What we mean by Anything Extra)

Opinion: Racism, Dogs, and Our Primitive Brains

Through the Wormhole – Are We All Bigots?

DanaSimone!’s love for movies and AMC Theaters started when she was a youngster in Detroit.  By day, she saves the world from financial ruin, and by night wears a superwoman cape (literally) as a mom, wife, speaker, philanthropist, travel agent, and up-and-coming social media influencer. She’s the creator of the #FemaleMasterpiece empowerment movement and a former talk show host.  Stalk her on YouTube channel “DanaSimone!”and check our her cool app.

Movie Review – Suburbicon

Ominous, paranoid, depraved, slow, violent, pessimistic, foreboding, and dark — both metaphorically and visually. Racist, and rather evil. None of the named characters are likable. If these traits sound like movie accolades to you, you’ll enjoy this film.

I didn’t. It was vile. If I wasn’t seeing it for work, I would have walked out. I felt grimy afterwards.

I was thinking it might be something like *Pleasantville*, another grim portrayal of mid-century bland suburbanite fantasies. *Pleasantville* at least was a good story. *Suburbicon* is the kind of film you’ll probably love or hate, depending on your tolerance for demented imagery and disturbing humor. There’s some deep stuff with the overtly racist storyline treated as an afterthought (interesting choice), framing the grisly hidden reality of the apparently squeaky-clean, whiter than white Lodges a few feet away, next door. I can see where the Coens were going with this, but they just didn’t get there satisfactorily. There’s no real payoff. At least the film is short.

I will give this a C+, which is more than I want to, because director George Clooney clearly had a vision for how he wanted to tell this story: he used a very stylized tone/color palette, with a restrained soundtrack, to accomplish a certain look and feel. It’s quirky in a vulgar way, and there are filmatic callbacks to the old Hitchcock films. Some of the camera work made me nauseous, and I’m sure that was intended. So there was this.

The acting? Oscar Issac has the best lines and energy, and the mostly listless film picks up some zing in his brief scenes.

Matt Damon does his role reasonably well, and so does Julianne Moore. Even if you can’t like them (or anyone else).

 

Movie Rating: C+

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)