© Edgar J. Ridley 2015
An area of study, called Cognitive Semiotics, decides how people behave and make decisions. When we study the different disciplines and ransack the literature of the world, it is obvious that symbols and their effect on the neurological processes of the brain are the deciding factor in people behavior.
Racism is a mental illness. Several decades ago, a group of African-American psychiatrists attempted to have it so designated by the American Psychiatric Association, but were rebuffed. The response from the APA is that racism is a norm in American society, and therefore cannot be deemed a mental illness.
Racism is terrorism. That has to be understood. The phenomenon of racial and religious terrorism have taken over as the most serious problems that we face in the world today. It has affected every discipline including the economy, the behavioral sciences, and every area and activity of human life.
We have to go back to prehistory to understand that Homo sapiens has undergone a neurological misadventure that was the beginning of symbolic thought and behavior for humanity.
UNESCO’s 1989 study of The General History of Africa chronologized the effect of symbol systems and myth on humanity. Former Director General of UNESCO, Amadou Mahtar M’Bow, stated, “All kinds of myths and prejudice conceal the true history of Africa from the world at large. African societies are looked upon as societies that have no history in spite of the important work done by such pioneers as Leo Frobenius, Maurice Delafosse and Arturo Labriola.” (I:vii) The study makes clear the effect that symbol systems have on the behavior of individuals – as noted by Volume 1’s Editor, J. Ki-Zerbo, “Myth governed history and was at the same time responsible for justifying it.” (I:16) He went on to state, “The mythical approach in fact is common to all peoples. Every history starts off as religious history, but sometimes the mythical current overwhelms a nation’s attitudes, opinions or ideology. Under the Nazi regime, for instance, the myth of race, substantiated in rituals that went back into the remote past, led mankind into one of the most terrible periods of all its history.” (I:18)
The term race is a social myth, a social construct. There is no scientific evidence of race at all. The General History of Africa study concluded that the term race has done untold harm to populations around the world. When we understand that race is a superstition and a myth derived from symbolic thought, it correlates with the fact that racism, a mental illness, is a symbolic behavior that must be overcome and replaced with a Symptomatic Thought Process®, which produces symptomatic behavior. This concept is explained in my most recent book, The Golden Apple: Changing the Structure of Civilization – Volume 1 (Africa World Press). Mental illness is a refusal to face reality. Thinking symbolically is a refusal to face reality by mythologizing historical facts and events. America has been a master of that activity.
For instance, when it comes to anthropology, American scholarship mimics the point of view of European anthropologist, C.G. Seligman. When he realized that Africans were not only the first humans but also created the first civilization, he invented a mythical race called “Hamite”, which race was supposed to have created all the great events in Africa and were responsible for all great civilizations in Africa. That is an example of mythologizing facts. There is no such group as the Hamites. It has been proven to be a meaningless term by scholars (see J.H. Greenberg). The term was created solely by Seligman and continued by people who could not face the fact of a Black, African population, not only being the first humans on the face of this earth but the progenitors of the first civilization.
This propensity to mythologize facts is caused by symbolic thinking and behavior that must be discarded. Unfortunately, these anthropological misnomers have been embedded in the world’s educational systems. These prejudices have been used to justify white supremacy overtly in America and generally in the rest of the world. The result is America’s police forces murdering Black men, or the recent massacre in South Carolina.
Racism in the United States is the worst in the world due to the ability of those Americans who classify themselves as white to manipulate symbol systems that colonize the neurological processes of people of color. A 2004 study by the National Research Council on the Critical Perspectives on Racial and Ethnic Differences in Health and Late Life stated that “African Americans are viewed differently than other racial and ethnic groups. They have the fewest options of any group in the United States.”
This shows how African-Americans, and indeed, African people generally, are treated worse not only in America, but are looked at differently but globally. Having traveled worldwide, Africans and African-Americans unfortunately are the most disrespected people on the face of this earth. That is due to the symbolic stereotyping by people who classify themselves as white.
Because of symbolic manipulation, racism has gotten worse as the decades go by. One of the reasons for this increased outward show of racism is because of the changing demographics, where shortly the U.S. population will be majority people of color: African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics. This demographic phenomenon has driven American to increasingly employ the methods used by apartheid South Africa, such as inventing racial categories and attempting to cause conflict among groups.
Edgar J. Ridley is Chairman of his own global consulting firm, Edgar J. Ridley & Associates. He is the author of The Golden Apple: Changing the Structure of Civilization – Volume 1 (Africa World Press), which is a study of symbolism and its impact on civilizations. The Golden Apple: Changing the Structure of Civilization – Volume 2 is in press. It is a study of the evidence of symptomatic behavior.