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Racism: A Symptom of Something Deeper

I have been following Marley K., an African American writer. I’ve had a little challenge in understanding her approach, which suggests that racism is an inherent part of being white. We white people just can’t shed this trait. I’m not sure if she really means this or it is just another fearmongering tactic to get attention to move an important social issue forward. Regardless, her articles do get me thinking.

I will admit that I had some racist tendencies in my younger days. While I was never a cross-burner racist, I did require a higher standard for people of color to be acceptable people. I now see that attitude as racism.

The good news is that I have shed a good deal of my ugly side. Having had an ugly side leaves the possibility that there might still be a smaller ugly side still lingering. I don’t know. I’m just not seeing racist tendencies that need to be fixed at this point in my life. But I shall be vigilant. Maybe Marley’s articles are helping.

Racism is a social disease that needs eradication. But I think there’s a more sinister sociopsychological force at play. I’m going to get hypothetical to make my point.

A Deserted Island

Imagine a deserted island with conditions to sustain 1,000 people. It will be hard work to keep everyone fed and sheltered, but the resources are there.

So let’s put 1,000 people on this island.

Better yet, let’s put 1,000 white people on this island! And only white people.

Then let’s return in 10 years.

I bet this new society will not be egalitarian. It will divide up into two castes—the have-mores and the have-less’s.

I have written about the Orwellian ratio of 2%/13%/85%. The 2% will be running the society; the 13% will be serving the 2% directly; and the 85% will be doing most of the work. Our deserted island will be stratified to something close to this ratio.

Ever since humanity has moved from its hunter-gatherer, nomadic, social structure, the Orwellian ratio has been followed reasonably well: society-after-society, time-after-time, government-after-government. Today, western societies are seeing a reduction of the middle class. To me, this change is only going back to the Orwellian ratio. Our big middle class is an aberration of history.

Our island of white people will have found a way to segregate economically from one another. The 2% will do what it takes to keep them and their families in their privileged position. The 13% will fear being cast into the 85%, so they will cater to the directives of the 2% to keep the 2% in power. The 2% then keeps the 13% in the 13%. Neat arrangement, eh? But it works! At least for the 2% and 13%.

I have talked about our inner dictator: that little desire that wants to run the world our way for the benefit of everyone else. On this island, all previous social constructs will have broken down—and all those inner dictators will start looking for ways to become real dictators. Power struggles will ensue; some dictators will be more skillful than others. A new elite will form. The politically vanquished will recognize it is better to live in the 85% than to fight the dictatorship of the 2%.

Notice that this island society is about white people oppressing white people. Are they racist? Maybe, maybe not, who knows? But they did form a society that has social castes. Don’t believe me. Just study European history. That’s a good story of white people oppressing other white people.

Is it not a reasonable hypothesis to say that human nature is hardwired to create these social castes? Why else would something like the Orwellian ratio exist?

So, let’s change the balance of our white castaways. Maybe 800 whites and 200 blacks. There will still be a power struggle to determine who is on top of this new social order. But someone has to be on the bottom. Would it not be natural for the white majority to relegate the black minority to the bottom? The minority would not have the strength to compete for the 2% positions, regardless of their natural talents. In this way, the competition for the better spots will be saved for the white majority. Most whites would either agree to this arrangement or acquiesce to the situation. If they altruistically challenge this injustice, they will be put at the bottom—with the blacks. 

Let’s reverse the numbers. Let’s put 800 blacks and 200 whites on the island. Who do you think is going to occupy the 2%? Even if the whites are racists? Even if they are not racist? The previous social constructs have been broken. Black people have inner dictators, too.


In “Political Tribes,” author Amy Chua describes our natural tendencies to form tribes in the past and now in modern times. Belonging to a tribe brings both advantages and obligations to its members.

To me, it is this tribalism that is the big sociopsychological force at play. Racism and other forms of prejudice/discrimination are just by-products of tribalism. We have used race, gender, religion, ethnicity, language, economic class, and caste as a convenient means to allocate the better spots in our society for our own tribe. If we have the power, we will send the people who are different than us to the bottom—overtly, subtly, ignorantly, or willfully ignorantly. Our fellow tribemates lift us a little higher in such a system.

A Modern Tribe

Political parties are just another kind of tribe. Inside all political parties, there’s a lot of reciprocal favors being passed around—often with government money. The high and middle ranks of party members take care of each other. I had a little experience with this corruption.

An Alternative Democracy

I have envisioned a new system of governance called Tiered Democratic Governance (TDG). I have designed an electoral structure that should discourage the formation of political parties. As well, I have charged the early builders of the TDG with deliberately building a new culture that eschews the formation political parties. Between the new structure and the new culture, the TDG should relegate the political party to the dustbins of history.

The reader probably understands the above paragraph is—at this point—mostly platitudes, rhetoric, and wishful thinking. To really prove that humanity can shed its reliance on the political party, we need to build a party-less system of democratic governance. It’s all there in the TDG.

Let’s assume we can build this party-less system.

If the TDG can cast aside this particular tribal instinct, then it just might be capable of casting aside other tribal instincts. Like racism.

Just imagine that the TDG is functioning as it should be. No political parties. No noisy election campaigns funded by nefarious interests. TDG members voting for good character and capacity for governance. AND elected representatives not obligated to play favor games with members of their own tribe (aka, their political party). How is racism going to find a home in this electoral system?

Getting rid of the political parties is a vital component of the TDG. If the early builders do not build the right culture, all efforts to build the TDG will come to nothing. But if they are successful, a by-product of the TDG will also be casting aside another form of tribalism: racism. We can pull racism out of governance—and later society-at-large. With the TDG properly constructed, eventually the world will learn that there is no reward for being a racist.

Marley K. is telling me that I may not be fully cured of all my former racist tendencies. She might be right. I don’t know. I’ll just have to let a few more life lessons happen to see the errors of my current thinking. Maybe I can have a better self-assessment in five or so years.

But building the TDG takes the battle of racism to a higher level than platitudes, rhetoric, wishful thinking—and admonishing people that they still are racist. Building the TDG really puts its members to work on this social cause by example and practice. A few early TDG builders will recognize that they need to do a little work on themselves. They probably would not have come to this realization without their TDG work.

Working for something and talking about something are two different things. Building the TDG is about working. Wouldn’t working on a non-racist system of governance be better than talking about reforming our current system, which is so rife with obvious tribalism?

Published on Medium 2021

Building the TDG Culture

The Orwell Ratio