Ethnocentric Intolerance

Peter C. Newton-Evans

I recently overheard a cafeteria discussion in which a student was describing ethnic intolerance as being entirely without logical or rational bases. Although I was glad to know this person felt strongly about it, I could not help thinking that something was wrong with the statement.

Take the case of Chris, a white, middle-class child of average natural endowment, reared in the bosom of a "morally strict" American family. Whenever Chris puts an elbow on the dinner table or fails to appropriately use the napkin, disapproving looks, gestures and words are given in response.

Thus Chris learns at an early age that certain actions are “good” and certain others “bad”. Because the disapproval is aimed at Chris, the child also learns that people are either good or bad according to their actions.

{josquote}We can now ask ourselves whether the logical conclusions resulting from those unchallenged “truths” contribute to or detract from our becoming more like our Ideal Self, and we can begin a process of inner change.{/josquote}

Sometimes Chris uses a wrong word or admits to not knowing something, and in reply receives sneers and scorn from peers. Soon another lesson is learned: people are either dumb or smart according to whether or not they know certain facts and use appropriately certain words.

Everyone seems to be in agreement as to what constitutes good, bad, dumb or smart people, so Chris naturally accepts these assumptions as true without questioning them. Chris has now been properly programmed to be ethnocentric.

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