One of the most ancient and basic emotions for humans is fear. It is a mental signal we receive that tells us that we are threatened by an unpleasant outcome to the current situation. Our “fight-or-flight” brain patterns are triggered, sometimes leading us to make poor decisions when this basic instinct overwhelms our logical or experience-based thinking.
Evolution certainly favors our genetics when the response to fear leads us to step back from the slippery edge of a cliff, or to walk away from an encounter with a bear. Evolution would not be as kind to a genetic variation that leads a branch to ignore all signals of possible harm. Hence the humorous tales of the Darwin Awards, where people remove themselves from the human gene pool by engaging in stupidly risky behavior.
It is therefore important that we recognize and accept that fear of the unknown is strongly programmed into us by millions of years of natural selection. Early in the development of civilization, where we came to live together in tribes or villages, it was important that humans could quickly recognize outsiders. An individual who appeared different, who dressed differently, or who acted differently from our shared culture, could be quickly identified as a possible invader, intruder, or some kind of threat.
But this instinct can overwhelm our best virtues of cooperation, kindness, and empathy. The ugliest side of human behavior boils up and spills out. Soon fear turns to anger: “How dare you come into my village and make me afraid!” If I don’t look like you, talk like you, act like you, or dance like you; fear will make it very difficult for both of us to avoid seeing each other as some kind of threat.
I believe that we can only overcome our protective fears by first acknowledging that they exist and why we have them, and then by training ourselves to step back and apply experience and logic to the situation.
Having explained my thought process, I need to share a most basic conclusion:
Black Lives Matter.
If your instant response was “Oh no Bob, don’t you think that all lives matter?” then you have entirely missed the point. You may have missed the origins of that movement. It is unconscionably sad when the fears of one tribe lead to the killing of the sons and daughters from a different tribe.