Originally, the working title for this post was “Institutionalizing Bigotry, Prejudice & Tolerance.” For years, I’ve thought about the connection between bigotry, prejudice, tolerance and about how they evolved. The ability to categorize things — friends, enemies, food, danger, among others — is not important just for people. It’s important to the survival of just about any living thing on the planet. The problem is that the same neurological processes that make this work are also behind bigotry, prejudice and tolerance. It takes a higher order of evolution to get past interacting with the world based solely on the instinct to lump everyone you meet into the same small set of categories and then respond as if your twisted picture of the world is absolutely accurate.
Which is apparently why many law enforcement officers have so much difficulty with distinguishing between people they just don’t like or understand, and criminals.