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Yvette Carnell: What Black People Have in Common With Pavlov’s Drooling Dogs

Pavolov was a scientist who studied physiology, and this was Pavlov’s experiment:

Pavlov became interested in studying reflexes when he saw that the dogs drooled without the proper stimulus. Although no food was in sight, their saliva still dribbled. It turned out that the dogs were reacting to lab coats. Every time the dogs were served food, the person who served the food was wearing a lab coat. Therefore, the dogs reacted as if food was on its way whenever they saw a lab coat.

In a series of experiments, Pavlov then tried to figure out how these phenomena were linked. For example, he struck a bell when the dogs were fed. If the bell was sounded in close association with their meal, the dogs learnt to associate the sound of the bell with food.

Black people react to racism, or the mere suggestion of racism, the same way Pavlov’s dogs reacted to lab coats and bells. It is a learned response to a perceived threat, but it makes us weak prey to people who would much rather have us distracted than engaged. And this reflexiveness is damning us to permanent second class status, especially here in America.

Take for example the highly sensationalized reporting on Ron Paul’s 20 year old racist newsletters.  Republicans didn’t even need to do any heavy lifting to get Ron Paul disqualified based on that inflammatory accusation. Why? When all they needed to do, all they did,  was mention that Paul supposedly wrote racist newsletters two decades ago and, instinctively, black writers went in for the kill, and wasted their time and valuable platforms fighting a battle that wasn’t their own.

With  unemployment at record levels and discretionary spending being gutted, the space underneath the bylines of black writers would’ve been put to better use un-peeling back those layers of injustice, and sounding the alarm so that black Americans were made aware of the devastation to come. But, Pavlovian as they are, black writers couldn’t resist drooling over a story which involved race. You see, it is not just racism that undoes us, but our reaction to it, as well.

Another example: Today in the news, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his posse are *reporting* that President Obama’s birth certificate is a fake. It doesn’t mean anything. Arpaio doesn’t have the power to make any arrests or force the President to step down, but still, black people will flock to this largely irrelevant story. We can’t help ourselves. We’ve been conditioned to respond to perceived and real racism with an undeserved ferociousness. Race clouds our thinking, and since powerful interests have long observed this child-like quality in us, they throw us a little red racism meat to distract  us  from things that really matter, things that we could actually change.

The Black Standard is now synonymous with The Race Standard. Our mainstream writers refuse to cover stories with directly impact black communities because there’s always some lascivious race story that takes precedent. And black readers, like Pavlov’s dogs, eat it up.

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16 comments

  1. Brittany Washington

    Yes!

  2. Develop a behavior modification for Black people. It works for people who have to utilize the system, be it welfare, food stamps, jail, penitentiary etc. It even works on people departing from the system. Back in the 1970’s I was involved in a pilot project dealing with the Welfare population and the General Relief population. 85% retention rate for bringing people into the workforce and maintaining the jobs, and attending some type of training for further development. It worked!

  3. I must respectfully disagree with this analysis. I find most of Carnell’s articles insightful, but this is way off the mark.
    “Black people react to racism, or the mere suggestion of racism, the same way Pavlov’s dogs reacted to lab coats and bells. It is a learned response to a perceived threat”
    What is meant by perceived threat? White supremacy is omnipresent, and it manifests itself in the most tangible of occurrences at a frequency that is virtually immeasurable. If Blacks are so stimulated by this “perceived threat”, then the reaction would also be omnipresent. The reactions that the black community has toward white supremacy are at best INSUFFICIENT. Perception has to do with sensing something. Senses involve a stimulus and it also suggests that this stimulus can be subjective in some way. By referring to events involving white supremacy as a “perceived threat”, you are suggesting that counter argument could also be true, which is that instances of white supremacy are not a threat. Anyone with a cursory understanding of white supremacy should know that it is an irrefutable threat to African Americans.
    African Americans reactions to charges of racism and white supremacy are not something that resulted through conditioning from the media. Unless you are completed disconnected from the black community, you’ve most likely experienced the tangibles instances of white supremacy and racism that manifest from interaction with law enforcement, the constant rejection occurring while doing a job search, the stalking that takes place while shopping in a neighborhood store, the barrage of demoralizing images and white supremacist commentary within the media, and so many other things. These ubiquitous occurrences of white supremacy have created and sustained the method in which African Americans respond. The response only intensifies as certain black people become more astute about their history and current socio-economic situation. The media does not revel in highlighting racism and white supremacy; it is more engaged in obfuscating and denying the existence of white supremacy (All popular outlets, not just Faux news). The media, along with other social institutions, is largely responsible for tranquilizing the reaction to white supremacy. Thus explains why the black community’s reaction is mostly ineffective and insufficient when it comes to combating white supremacy.
    If Ron Paul (whom not only associated with known white supremacist but also has been seen in photos with them) was called out by members of the GOP in an effort to thwart attention off of their own misdeeds—so be it. It does not mean that Ron Paul is not a white supremacist and or friendly to their stance. If one Rapist outs another Rapists that does not mean a women will be any more comfortable with either. It does not matter who intended what. The fact remains that they are both rapist and therefore a threat to women. If anything, the media is responsible for individualizing racism, to thwart African American attention away from the more systematic manifestation of this ideology. The things that you mentioned about jobs, incarceration, education, etc, are heavily reflective of white supremacist systematic influences.

    • Hi Eric,

      I, along with my wife, and two children are currently living in Shanghai, China. It’s the result of an offer made to my wife. To spare all the details of my life, it has, however, been filled with searching for the truth. Anyway, I have been reading Dr. Broyce’s pages for some time now, along with bloggers. I want to commend you on you in-depth analytical approach to many social, political platforms. I wish we had more brothers with that type of thinking ability. The ability to dissect perspectives, and find the truth. Keep up the good work!

  4. @ Eric – Great Post. You appear to study Neely Fuller and Dr. Welsing.

  5. I disagree with this generalized way of trying to categorize how Black people react to living in a white society. Are you ‘paranoid’ if some folks really are after you? Far too many experiences of African-Americans — and other people of color– have been tinged by white racism in one way or another. And why leave out the way that too many WHITE FOLKS react to the mere sight of a person of color. The list of ugly stereotypes that enter their sick minds is very long. Consider George Zimmerman as a prime example.

  6. I agree with your position. We are obsessed with racism. So much so that we neglect what we can concentrate on to better our position in any society.

    There is a movie, call Red Tails that depict the Tuskegee Airman’s incredible performance in World War II. After a review at the Pentagon where their combat performance was clearly established in a major air battles a white officer addressed the commander of the Tuskegee Airman and dismissing their record and stating he does not believe that “colored pilots” should be on the front lines. The Tuskegee Airman commander responded “I don’t care.”

    If we can all develop this mental attitude. Get on with doing a good job at whatever activity God has called us to become involved in and greatly diminish our obsession of what other people think of us.

  7. White fear!!!!!!! I have never worried about my daughter being abused, raped or disrespected by a white man, I have never been worried about my car being jacked by a white man, I have never worried about my wife being robbed by a white man, I have never worried about one of my son being murdered for bumping or disrespecting by a white man, my house has been broken into twice neither time by a white man, never being called a nigger by a white man and I live in the South(Georgia) not saying that any of this couldn’t be done by a White man but I’m 59 years old and it haven’t happen yet.

  8. I agree with Carnell. To be sure, racism is not dead, but what does it say about a people whose entire political and social infrastructure revolves around stamping out racism while addressing little else? Could it be that the problems that exist within our communities are because we’re not addressing a myriad of problems we face of which racism is only one part? What structures do we have in place to economically and socially advance our communities? The truth is that there are none, however, there are plenty of structures for marching and protesting. In all of our marching to protest racism, we literally march right past a number of problems within that are far bigger threats to our existence as black people and crime is the biggest threat as black folks are literally dying because of it.

    There’s a fallacy that we subscribe to that say black advancement can only come with the eradication of “racism”. That leaves the agenda for black advancement in the hands of other people as they will never eradicate racism enough for us. So this sets us up for asking permission to advance which is like a carryover from slavery, so rather than strike out on our own for freedom, we’re effectively reduced to petitioning someone for it. The times we’re in call for much more than that. It calls for much more sophistication than that and quite frankly, it calls for a far different type of leadership than we’ve had to date. The easiest thing to do to march and holler about racism, it’s quite another thing to plan and execute to assume control over one’s challenges and destiny. That takes vision and real work. Until we do that, we’ll continue to be the laughing stock of the world. The racism stuff is being used to play us and those who are claiming to address it deliver absolutely nothing while we give up our vote and money in exchange. Moreover, this diverts our attention from real issues and, more importantly, real things we can do to advance ourselves politically, economically and socially. Again, much of this is about leadership and this is where we’re sorely lacking. This is so because most of our so called leadership is not funded by us nor are they independent. We don’t even control the organizations that are purportedly fighting racism on our behalf. Any review of the major sources of funding of these organizations will reveal that that it’s other than black folks who control the major funding. This means that our so called leaders are not representatives for us but representatives to us. The organizational and political focus on racism as the sole issue of concern to black folks to the exclusion of a whole host of other issues effectively mutes us many issues that should be of concern. This is what is being funded and it’s clearly being done for a reason. Bottom line is that we’re being played.

    Yvette Carnell—do not be discouraged from writing pieces like this. New knowledge is almost always considered heretical by those in the established order or those who support that order by reflex. Those who are heretics serve an extremely important role in establishing a new accepted wisdom. One of the things we need desperately are black heretics to challenge our thinking.

  9. Little by little we are waking up to the fact that we, ourselves, are a part of “our” problem. Our historical experiences permeate our present culture so extensively that “our” thoughts and behaviors are often lagging behind the times. A major theme in this retardation is: a tendency towards dependency. Self Reliance is virtually neutralized by this tendency. In this environment, virtue gives way to vice and the society evolves survival mechanisms which further retard healthy development. It is a vicious cycle.

  10. All human beings will respond in the same manner to training or the lack thereof. No need to identify or specify Black people since we are all humans. If this this applies to Black people, it applies to White, Brown, Green, Blue humans also. When will people learn the truth?

  11. The slave has always been and shall continue to be influenced by the perceptions of the master. The emancipation proclmation freed us from physical restraints of slavery, yet remained our physocialogical tetters. As a young man I asked the question of my mother: Mom are we not just as good as white people? My mother answered me by knowcking me to my knees, towering over me with anger in her expresssion, and shouted. BETTER. Just as good is a statement of inferority and an attempt to reach equality with another is to state that one fails to measure up to that which he is seeking equality. Thanks to the rearing of my mother I have never felt a need of approval of either man, Caucasian or Netro. Our greatestthreat is not racism, it is wqualitysnow flakes are alike. Rather then seeking equality. we sould seeking excellence. Excellence in our behavior; Excellence in our performance; Excellence in our education; Excellence in our neighborhoods; Excellence in our social and family structures. Equality lead to the misguided acceptance of intergration. Which in reality was a compromise and an indictment that we as a people would only reach the status of humanity if we were allowed too associate ourselves with the master. Date his children, eat at his counters, socialize at his gatherings. Well that has failed to every measureable degree. In order to succeed as a people we must view ourselves as those with whom we seek to be equal with. They see themselves as the superior race and that all other races are backwards. We know this to be truth. White is pure. Then all other colors are impure. This is the language world wide. The law that is written states that the Causassian must be tolerant of other races, ethic, and social idenities, it does not state that he/she must accept them as equals. I am not seeking equality with the caucasian race. I seek excellence within my own actions. I seek not to emulate the behaviors of a race that percieves themselves as tolerant of others, as one would a bothersome pet, but rather to excell, to achieve and to witness to my abilities. If you wish to see a difference in our communities teach your children that they are better then rather the equal too.

  12. This is a generalization but is true for those who are reactionary. Mental illness is a thought disorder. There are many immature reactionaries but gays seem to be the worst. My observation.

    • I first would like to say that I have read all accounts and I must say they all have given be some FOOD for thought. I have purposed to make myself accountable for “my mind-set” and “thought process” In reflection to how I was taught; my lloving parents taught fear innocently through the sole desire to protect us from being hurt (emotionally more than physically). We ALL have had our own experiences and for me I switched Masters. Again respectively for me I CHOOSE that as a child of God I am BETTER than any color issue in more of a heart issue and how we see and respect ourselves and how we treat others. it;s more a LOVE issue. Yea this might sound hoaky to some but I have been stuck in the race/racism rat trap/”dog” house with my fist up and my big fro, but for me after years of it I realize it made me bitter. Don’t let me wrong I still see and recognize racisim in full gear but I choose to not let it affect my peace and stop my smile and most of all change who I am.

  13. I first would like to say that I have read all accounts and I must say they all have given be some FOOD for thought. I have purposed to make myself accountable for “my mind-set” and “thought process” In reflection to how I was taught; my lloving parents taught fear innocently through the sole desire to protect us from being hurt (emotionallymore than physically). We ALL have had our own experiences and for me I switched Masters. Again respectively for me I CHOOSE that as a child of God I am BETTER than any color issue in more of a heart issue and how we see adn respect ourselves and how we treat others. it;s more a LOVE issue. Yea this might sound hoaky to some but I have been stuck in the race/racism rat trap/”dog” house with my fist up and my biig fro, but for me after years of it I realize it made me bitter. Dont et me wrong I still see and reconize racisim in full gear but I dchoose to not let it affect my peace and stop my smile and most of all change who I am. ont

    it made me biterhearsiigAngela Davis afro

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