This will be another post in response to the recent police shootings. I’m sure you’re tired of these so no harm done if you want to skip this one. I’m writing more to organize my own thoughts, but thought I should share them because I’m 25 and think my opinions nuanced and important lol. We all do.
Since my field of minimal expertise is cognitive and evolutionary psychology, that’ll be the angles I examine this. But first let me be clear, the data is conclusive; blacks are more likely to be stopped, charged, arrested, imprisoned, and killed when compared to a white counterpart with all other variables being similar. There is a fucking problem.
I want to offer some cognitive and evolutionary science that I think will help those who are emotionally suffering from the news but who don’t have any power over changing the factors that contribute to this issue.
Evolutionarily, our brains are capable of keeping up with a tribe of roughly 150 people. These were the average sized groups we lived in for 100,000+ years when we were Hunter-Gathers. We are hardwired to keep track of our allies and foes, our position in the hierarchy, and who would make a good mate; if the group is smaller than 150.
But we live in a time where our communication technology dwarfs our brain’s capacity. In minutes, we can know of rape, torture, weddings, births, and the deaths of people that we will never know. So we feel helpless, because these are pains and pleasures we can not influence.
The Cognitive angle is going to anger the emotional, but I feel like it needs to be shared. One of the most well researched and solid theories in Cognitive psychology is confirmation bias. We only look for data that agrees with our initial opinion, and if by chance we come across data that conflicts with our preconceived notion, we ignore or forget it.
There are never news stories of the tens of thousands of cops who work every day and don’t act violently. We have a fucking problem in this country, but it is not as widespread as it may feel.
The media shapes the conversation. The media makes money off of the number of viewers and clickers. Studies are clear, news that makes people angry will get the most clicks and the most views. We, the consuming mass, are a product that the media manipulates
My take away; let the emotional response you feel when you learn about these tragedies spur you to positively change what you can. Vow never to harm another human being. Vow never to judge someone on the color of their skin. Tell your mom you’re grateful for all she’s sacrificed for you. Give your love your undivided attention. Pay for someone’s Starbucks. Take yourself on a date.
This is my favorite quote to share when these kinds of things happen;
“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”