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Letters: The evolution of racial prejudice

August 01, 2013

Re "Is racial prejudice hard-wired?," Opinion, July 28

Neuroscientist Robert M. Sapolsky hits the nail on the head. Racial prejudice is rooted in behavioral characteristics and neural wiring that are the product of natural selection.

Quickly sensing potential danger in one's environment, with other humans forming the major part of that environment, had survival value for our ancestors. We also quickly create categories of things and people and assign values to them.

Humans are "groupists" by nature: Our ancestors formed group associations to survive. Conflict between groups joined conflict between individuals as a factor in the evolution of our species.

Humans create their groups (including race), and we can un-create them. What will probably not change is our evolved urge to create and join groups, so we had better start paying closer attention to the destructive potential of this drive.

Chuck Almdale

North Hills

Sapolsky says, "Simply thinking about someone as a person rather than a category makes … automatic xenophobia toward other races evaporate in an instant."

To which I'd like to add, simply thinking of oneself as a person rather than a category works even better.

Ray Sherman



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