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Tuesday, March 19, 2024

The Racism ‘Tool’


Hammering the message home

In 1966, psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail.” This has also been referred to as the “Law of the Instrument.” It sums up how we all tend to use cognitive bias toward what is familiar in solving an issue. Some folks, for example, keep returning to that same “tool” in their toolbox for nearly every task — no matter how different the challenge or what alternative approaches there might be.

Like a doctor friend once shared, the mantra of surgeons is “heal with steel,” insofar as surgeons tend to look first at surgery in treating their patients. And that’s understandable, especially if the tool of your profession is a steel scalpel. That’s what you will tend to reach for.

Another example is a medication that may be over-prescribed for certain conditions just because the doctor is more familiar with it than with other possible choices. What about a business manager who relies too much on a particular management style or approach with employees just because that may be all they know to do?

What about teachers who may rely too heavily on a particular teaching method when a different teaching style would be more effective for a student or group of students? Or what about when we rely too much on email or text messages as our “go-to” for communicating when a phone call or face-to-face meeting would be more successful?

There is no universal solution for all the problems that need solving.

So why is it that so many choose racism as their tool of choice to explain nearly every challenge we face in this country?

Income inequality? It’s due to racism.

Poverty? Racism. Crime? Racism. Require I.D. to vote in our elections? Racism. Lack of affordable housing? Racism. Pro-life legislation? Racist. Increasing funding for law enforcement? Racist.

Tougher jail sentences for violent crimes? Racist. Not in support of re-drawing voting district lines based on race? Racist.

This list could go on and on. In fact, for those who only see racism as an explanation for the injustice or inequality in this world, that is their “hammer,” and every “nail” (or issue) they see is treated as being rooted in racism.

Take the Caddo Parish sheriff’s election March 23. Some Black voters say that Henry C. Whitehorn Sr. should be sheriff because “our lives (in the African American and Democrat communities) literally depend on it.” Another Black voter posted on social media, “This is a Black city, but we’re not voting like it.”

Aside from how those comments are seemingly rooted in racism, by implying the Black community can only vote as a monolithic voting bloc (even though political views among Black voters are as diverse as any other group), if Black voters aren’t voting like they ought to (according to the author who made that social media post), maybe it’s because they aren’t that enthused.

Maybe they aren’t inspired enough to vote because of the candidates themselves. What if the candidate you expected Black voters to vote for wasn’t their choice?

You see, by constantly going back to that same “tool” and explaining everything as racism, we cannot find any common ground or learn from one another.

With that tool of racism firmly in hand, too many are dividing our communities in the most uncivilized, elementary and ignorant way – by our skin color.

But again, if you’re someone who tries to fix everything with a hammer, you’re probably not considering any other tools or solutions for the task at hand — you’re just making do with your “hammer” because that’s all you’ve got (and in some instances, that’s all you’ve ever had).

Am I saying this earthly world isn’t filled with countless examples of hate, bigotry and injustice? Is everything hunky dory with respect to race? No, of course not. But when we employ Maslow’s “Law of the Instrument” and blame every ailment or ill is due to racism, it leads to tunnel vision — and that leads to nowhere.

The bottom line is that whether it’s in the election of the next sheriff of Caddo Parish or anywhere else in our community, to the extent racism persists, perhaps it’s because of the constant hammering that everything is racist. Someone or some other group of people who don’t look like us are to blame for all that is wrong in our lives.

That may be the “go to” tool for many, but as the saying goes, if we all keep doing what we’re doing, won’t we keep getting what we’ve been getting?

Maybe it’s time to re-tool.

Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in 318 Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at louisavallone@mac.com, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.


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