A poignant experiment was done with turkeys. Researchers observed a curious phenomenon, whereby turkey babies would follow their mothers, even into dangerous situations, and even to their deaths. They wondered what made this bond so strong, that while other animals in similar circumstances showed a self-preservation instinct, turkeys would march happily to their own demise as long as their mothers led the way.
As good researchers do, they played around with different variables, trying to figure out which one was responsible for such strong turkey loyalty. What they found out was that turkey moms emit a specific noise, and that was the key. Anything the researchers would hook up with that noise- even inanimate objects- would suddenly find itself the focus of a turkey baby parade. Researchers could put an obvious predator in clear view, and a turkey-mother-noise-emitter in a tin can and drag it past the predator, and sure enough, those little turkeys would just march to their deaths. Publishers of the study referred to this as a “click-whir” response. The brain is programmed to respond to a certain stimulus in a certain way, and gosh darn if it won’t respond that way come high water or predators or zombie apocalypse.
I feel like we have “evolved” as a society to where racial sensitivity has now resulted in us seeing racism everywhere. We clearly have some racial baggage that needed cleaning up. To do that, we needed to be aware of issues of past racism, and how to address them and redress them- but that history has cost us dearly in that now we cannot see race without seeing racism. If police have to give the following description of a suspect, “A 6 foot, 4 inch man, driving a white Honda Accord and wearing a brown jacket…” because to say that he was a certain race- the most obvious descriptor of a person you are looking at!- may be viewed as racist, then we have gone backward instead of forward. If in 2015 we are so eager to show how not racist we are that we are penalizing white people in order to promote less qualified minorities, then we are spitting on the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his dream that people would be judged on the content of their character and not the color of their skin.
And when there is an incident between law enforcement and citizens and before the facts are even clear people are shouting, “Black lives matter!” my response is, “Yes, and…?” Of course black lives matter- as do the lives of every person. But yelling this as if this is somehow insightful information is like me yelling, “I think Mexican people are kind of neat!” Perhaps interesting, but it doesn’t really add anything relevant to the discourse.
It reminds me of the time I was leaving a local cafe and someone asked me to sign a petition against LGBT murder. So I asked, “Um, who is in favor of LGBT murder?” The woman went off on a whole shpiel about how “those on the right” (ha!) support policies that cause the murder of LGBT-Q people, etc etc etc… and then after about ten pages of anti-right-wing stuff was the actual petition which was in fact a pro-gay-marriage petition.
Whether the recent incident in Baltimore will turn out to be police abuse or something completely not that remains to be seen. Clearly there are many on the streets and in the media who would like to frame this conversation for us. The last time folks wanted to helpfully sloganize (Remember “Hands up, don’t shoot”?), before the facts were in, the voice of the street was shown to be a conspiracy of shameful lies.
The internet has done so many great things as far as bringing information to people. But when people irresponsibly use social media to spread an agenda before the facts are in, the immediacy of the information age can work against us. For some reason folks almost always see the wrong information, yet almost never see the corrected information later on.
Let’s just hope we can be smarter than a bunch of turkeys.