Racism is a fire that the political class can't put out, perhaps because they don't want to. Intentionally or not, the politicians, media and academics are all stoking the fires.
The historically racist term colored people has been replaced by the cool and fully acceptable term people of color. I harbor doubts that such a change in terminology will make a dent in the problem of racism.
But words are important and they do influence thought, so we need to be aware when our definitions are causing problems.
Discrimination is a term that has undergone major changes in meaning. Discriminate used to mean to choose after careful deliberation, a process that has only positive connotations. Over the decades, the meaning gradually changed to a negative: making a choice based on group affiliation such as race, ethnicity, religion, etc. Then the word discriminate mutated further. It now seems to hold a more confusing, subjective and inconsistent meaning, one that took me a while to parse. After some contemplation, I realize that discrimination has come to mean doing something that someone might want to get offended by.
With that background, let's take the term racism head on. In this conversation, I am using the original definition of the term discriminate as opposed to the politically correct or confused versions.
First, let's ask: is there some biological, innate, genetically transferred process that, in addition to the history of slavery, causes or underlies racism? There could be. And if there is, we need to be aware of it.
We know that people commonly are attracted to mates who look like themselves. Just so, perhaps the tribes of long ago feared people who looked different from themselves—who looked strange—in other words, strangers. And rightfully so back then, as such strangers might be invaders, stealing their land, their children, enslaving the women. Over the millennia, a fear of strangers may have become teleologically engrained. In other words, to fear people who look different may have provided a survival benefit. Indeed it still may, such as when fear of hooded gangs leads to avoidance of them. In addition to cultural causes, does the spontaneous segregation of black kids and white kids at school lunch tables have an ancient biological underpinning? Possibly. There certainly are other evolutionary adaptations in the brain that prove to be handicaps in modern society. Racism may, in part, be a residual handicap left over from primitive times.