Much of the research I’ve done (and classes I’ve taken through the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University over the past few years) to help me understand the history, legacy, and present-day impact of slavery and racism has led me to the brain. Understanding historic trauma and how it is passed down from generation to generation requires a better understanding of how trauma impacts, and is incorporated into, the brain.
My publisher, Beacon Press, has recently put out a terrific new book that I highly recommend to everyone who is interested in digging beneath the headlines about Shirley Sherrod, Dr. Laura, and other stories where accusations of “racism” are tossed about, to understand what’s really at work when it comes to our prejudices.
Are We Born Racist? New Insights from Neuroscience and Positive Psychology is written in lay terms and is easy to read. It will increase your understanding about how deeply embedded, and normal, our harmful prejudices are, where they come from, and how significantly they impact our daily lives and harm our health.
The good news is that the scientists, psychologists, and educators who contributed to Are We Born Racist? show that we are not stuck with our prejudices. We can override the hard-wiring in our brains and reduce our harmful impulses. But it takes more than good intentions (and we all know where the roads are paved with good intentions). It requires dedicated effort to understand the root causes and then working together to challenge harmful, systemic, societal stereotypes.
The first step is to learn about the “hows and whys” of prejudice. Reading Are We Born Racist? is a great place to begin.