I am reading Jordan Peterson’s book “12 Rules for Life” in which he explains the concept of “dominance hierarchy” by describing how lobsters, a species that’s survived over 350 million years, have always relied on a Darwinian (only the strongest prevail) approach to creating order from what would otherwise be chaos, doing so in a consistent, predictable, and observable way.
As I read these comments about systemic racism published here, I couldn’t help but think the situation and discrimination might relate more to this theory of a dominance hierarchy, i.e., to “dominate and survive” by any means necessary to avoid (the fear of) one’s life ultimately descending into chaos based on losing one’s advantage and/or status.
Immigrants, who streamed into America from Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s, (approximately 12 million) where mostly white (as are the Ukrainians and Russians currently locked in their own deadly struggle). The history I’ve studied suggests immigrants were also discriminated against, in part, because they were “different” in some physical way. That, however, was grossly outweighed by the reality that these new Americans presented a real threat to the well-being of those already established, in place and in power. American citizens did not want to compete with these new arrivals for decent paying jobs and the “good life” they believed they had already earned after having immigrated here years before.
Black, African-Americans and Chinese immigrants obviously suffered terrible treatment and conditions in our country while helping to build America into the vast global power it has become. These people farmed and harvested the cotton sold round the world under the vicious and pernicious whip of slave masters and built the transcontinental railroad from the West to the East, underpaid and at great risk to their own lives, respectively.
Adding insult to injury, Blacks had to endure Jim Crow laws supported by the Supreme Court of the U.S. while Chinese were forbidden to immigrate to America for 10 years by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which was designed to prevent new immigrants arriving to our shores willing to work for lower wages than those already employed.
I am not saying people of color or those that differ from the Anglo-Saxon white archetype are not discriminated against. I’m simply suggesting it may be more about a concern by the “incumbents” for what might be lost financially, socially, and politically. I am not sure I can say this behavior has been going on for over 350 million years, but certainly for as long as I’ve studied it.
I, for one, am praying we can find a better, more enlightened and humane way to maintain the order, freedoms, gifts, and security almost all humans crave. Doing so will include the performance of some “unnatural acts” of sacrifice and compromise (not apparently available to lobsters), but I whole-heartedly believe that is what we need now more than ever — especially if we hope to keep this country and world together in one “healthy” piece/peace!
Howard Horvath lives in West Haven.