How Do I Feel About Out-Groups?

One morning this month I was offered some buttered sourdough toast by a Mexican woman. I declined. She said, “You really do watch your carbs or you don’t like Mexicans. One of the two.”

I started thinking, “Do I not like Mexicans?”

I don’t think I ever had much anti-Mexican sentiment because most of my experiences with Mexicans have been neutral or positive.

The more pressure I feel, the more desperate I feel, the more likely I am to have negative feelings about those who are different from me.

I suspect most anti-semites didn’t have a problem with Jews until Jews affected their way of life. When Jews were quietly Jewish, they were perhaps less resented. Imagine your ancestors built the United States of America and now you find the country (or large parts of of the country, such as its media) is often run by immigrants including Jews and you don’t like many of the things they do. Then it would make sense that you would become anti-immigrant because you would see immigrants interfering with the life you want to lead.

I don’t think Mexicans would like it if Americans moved there and began to change the country, changed the language to English, and made Mexicans a minority in their own land.

Different groups have different interests. There are no permanent allies or enemies in the world. In some times and places, Jews and Christians are allies. In other times and places, they are enemies.

Personal interactions have a great influence on how I think about a group. I don’t recall any negative interactions with blacks until the summer of 1980 which I spent in Baltimore and encountered blacks who hated me simply because I was white. That made me on guard with blacks for the first time.

Whites loved O.J. Simpson until he murdered two people and then escaped criminal charges thanks to a largely black jury (and with the support of most blacks in America). Then some whites became anti-black.

A large part of the reason I became interested in Judaism and eventually converted was because of the positive experiences I had with various Jews at UCLA. If I have repeated bad experiences with certain types of Jews, I am more likely to have negative feelings towards those groups. If I have repeated bad experiences with certain types of whites, I am more likely to have negative feelings towards those groups. If I have repeated bad experiences with any group, I am more likely to have negative feelings towards that group.

I can’t recall a bad experience with a Mexican.

I don’t think there has ever been a country with a more than 5% Jewish population that wasn’t wracked by massive anti-Semitism. A country such as Australia might not have much anti-Muslim sentiment until Muslims move beyond 1% of the general population and start acting more assertively, thus provoking a backlash. Anti-Islam is a very popular ticket in much of the Western world right now, just as anti-Jewish has been popular at times and places in the past.

I didn’t think much about race growing up because I lived in dominantly white communities. But with diversity often comes conflict and tragedy.

It might be frighteningly close to reality to assume that under pressure different racial groups are enemies (though they can ally at different times and places when they have common interests).

If you believe in your own religion, all other religions are usually going to seem weird, if not evil. The more different your food, practices, dress and mores are from your neighbors, the more likely they are to hate you.

From Al Jazeera:

Today, [Pauline] Hanson is a significantly more sophisticated politician than the polarising newcomer of 1996. She is a social media success story, who seems to have adroitly zoned in on a mood of voter dissatisfaction over issues such as the decline of Australia’s manufacturing sector, the downsizing of public services, unaffordable property prices and foreign investment in primary industries and property.

And while race remains the cornerstone of Hanson’s politics, she has switched from targeting Asians to targeting Muslims.

“You can’t deny the fact that in these mosques they have been known to preach hate towards us. Is that a society that we want to live in?” Hanson said at her first and only pre-election press conference. “Do you want to see terrorism on our streets here? Do you want to see our Australians murdered?”

The policies of Hanson’s One Nation Party embody those fears. These include proposals to ban Muslim immigration and install surveillance cameras in existing religious schools and mosques, among others. Most controversially of all, One Nation wants a Royal Commission or inquiry into Islam.

“Don’t bury your head in the sand, and think this is not going to happen. We only have to look at other countries around the world,” she told Australian TV during her senate launch in June. “Let’s determine if it is a religion or a political ideology trying to undermine our culture.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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