Did Steve Bannon get this half right?

Steve Bannon is right not to beat around the bush: We are racists. Last Saturday,...

Posted: Mar 16, 2018 7:30 AM
Updated: Mar 16, 2018 7:30 AM

Steve Bannon is right not to beat around the bush: We are racists. Last Saturday, when speaking to France's far-right National Front, he affirmed their nationalistic platform. "Let them call you racists," he said. Speaking to those who might be feeling uncomfortable with the National Front's history and racist image, Bannon said: "Wear it as a badge of honor. Because every day, we get stronger and they get weaker."

Bannon's remarks were focused on the world of politics, but it's worth noting that from a biological perspective, racism is a predisposition shared by every one of us, from hydramus baboons to human beings, historically and in the present day. But rather than wearing it as a badge of honor, we should wear it as a badge of shame. Just because an instinct is built into us is no reason not to try to resist it.

Those who rise to the top or take the top by force are often corrupt and mean, as we can see at home and abroad, but the hoi polloi always share the same urges.

What can we do about it? Should we follow Steve Bannon's example and celebrate racism as if it were a benign way of shouting, "Vive la diff-rence!" or should we try hard to resist the urge to put "the other" in a box that we can then sit on or even crush?

We can fight this vile desire to treat ourselves as superior in small ways.

For instance, Bannon and I are both white. Our ancestors largely came to America from England and, within a decade of arrival, had carried out such racist acts as burning to death - in God's name and with the church's blessing - a village of some 500 Native American men, women and children, the smell of whose burning flesh was declared "horrible."

Colonizing perpetrators performed this despicable deed to stop the native people, whom one governor described as "Adam's degenerate seed," from continuing to take part in (and reap profits from) the fur trade, which was grotesquely cruel.

This is not unique to the United States, of course. As a daughter of colonists from England, I spent my childhood in India, where the British, not satisfied with humiliating Asian Indians by occupying their lands and plundering their riches, historically took to punishing "insubordination" and "rebellion" by suffocating their "lessers," hanging them publicly, and shooting them in cold blood.

Now, lest I appear to be holding nonwhites in higher esteem than whites, let's not gloss over the fact that Indians on both continents gave as good as they got whenever they could. Asian Indians burned widows to death on funeral pyres, and Hindus slaughtered Muslim families and vice versa at the drop of a Quran or a Gita. They also sewed snakes' mouths shut, pierced bears' nostrils so they could thread ropes through them, and captured and trained infant elephants by tying them down and beating them bloody - all atrocities, some that continue in modern times.

The Native Americans were hard at it in earlier centuries, too, scalping settlers, including women, and, yes, here it comes again, the animal part: trapping wild eagles to make headdresses out of their feathers and running bison off cliffs to their deaths.

In nature, the instinct to elevate those whose "tribe" one best relates to, whether one is a baboon or a Brit, is built in. Among the animal races - which, as species-ists, we have decided excludes the human race, a biological falsehood - from chimpanzees who hunt down colobus monkeys to cuckoos who kick other birds' eggs out of their nests and cats who toy with their prey, there are turf wars, food fights, and even infanticide, something that we can also see in the news when human males retaliate over what they see as a violation of their "breeding rights," shooting a girlfriend or wife and the child(ren) she took with her when she left his bed.

For further evidence in the human population, look no further than the war atrocities in Bosnia and Croatia and Rwanda, the hatred between Irish Catholics and the Protestants, and on and on ad nauseam. Closer to home for Americans, look at what's been done by men to women, by white people to black people, by straights to homosexuals. And no one should think that the oppression of nonhumans by humans doesn't count because "everyone" does it. In earlier times, "everyone" thought women were too stupid to vote or own property, kept slaves in shackles, experimented on orphans, and institutionalized humans with disabilities.

But we can resist history, and we must.

Decide not to go along with it, to fight it with sense and sensibility and with acts of kindness to all others. Don't cut off motorists you don't know just because you can get away with it. Don't eat and wear living beings just because you have the legal right to ignore their feelings and interests. When you find yourself noticing differences between yourself and others, notice the commonalities, too. Appreciate that we all share feelings of hunger, thirst, pain, joy, grief, love for our families, and freedom. None of that depends on whether our skin is a particular color or naked or covered with fur, feathers or scales.

If there's a beating heart, let's take that as a sign that we must be respectful. Racists we may be, but we don't have to act like it. Better to wear our hearts on our sleeves than the despicable "badge of honor" Steve Bannon wishes to wear on his.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 145636

Reported Deaths: 3745
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto963299
Hinds9584195
Harrison6848109
Jackson6124118
Rankin528598
Lee484295
Madison4633105
Forrest368186
Jones345287
Lauderdale3350143
Lafayette315049
Washington3097107
Lamar281849
Oktibbeha239261
Bolivar239083
Lowndes228863
Neshoba2164115
Panola211749
Marshall208350
Leflore200890
Pontotoc194728
Monroe190277
Sunflower189755
Lincoln186165
Warren172257
Tate164251
Union160925
Pike160458
Copiah158940
Yazoo151239
Scott150229
Itawamba147634
Coahoma147443
Pearl River144467
Simpson144253
Alcorn143925
Prentiss140429
Grenada136945
Adams136548
Leake131843
Holmes124961
George122224
Tippah121530
Covington117636
Winston116624
Wayne115823
Hancock114139
Marion111046
Attala107833
Tishomingo106142
Newton102729
Chickasaw102432
Tallahatchie95527
Clarke88553
Clay87027
Jasper81122
Walthall75028
Stone72414
Montgomery71925
Calhoun71613
Carroll70614
Lawrence70214
Yalobusha69427
Noxubee69217
Smith68816
Perry65225
Tunica59619
Greene58422
Claiborne57416
Jefferson Davis54217
Humphreys52618
Amite51214
Benton48417
Quitman4796
Webster42014
Kemper40917
Wilkinson38622
Jefferson33811
Franklin3235
Choctaw3077
Sharkey30617
Issaquena1114
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 236865

Reported Deaths: 3472
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson31043491
Mobile19446360
Tuscaloosa12684150
Madison12528146
Montgomery12122235
Shelby992276
Baldwin837684
Lee759765
Morgan626247
Calhoun6049113
Etowah600564
Marshall596153
Houston510838
DeKalb469635
Cullman421136
Limestone408844
St. Clair403955
Elmore398961
Lauderdale387253
Walker356199
Talladega339044
Jackson302524
Colbert297641
Blount282236
Autauga266139
Franklin246233
Coffee236615
Dale228454
Dallas222331
Russell21923
Chilton218537
Covington215933
Escambia196931
Tallapoosa171790
Chambers171448
Pike156014
Clarke155319
Marion135535
Winston126623
Lawrence123936
Geneva11848
Pickens117618
Marengo117424
Barbour116710
Bibb115717
Butler114341
Randolph100321
Cherokee99624
Hale93231
Washington89918
Clay89623
Fayette86216
Henry8436
Lowndes78929
Monroe77911
Cleburne75614
Macon71720
Crenshaw70330
Bullock69019
Conecuh68214
Perry6726
Lamar6337
Wilcox62818
Sumter56222
Choctaw41813
Greene41317
Coosa3144
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