Nature v. Nurture and Race, an African American Viewpoint

Sat, 06.30.2018

Nature v. Nurture and Race, an African American Viewpoint

After about two decades after his birth, my son’s mother told me that he was becoming more like me. He has her smile, countless other characteristics from her too, both blending nature and nurture. We separated when he was about five with her having full custody and my weekly visits and separate annual vacations.

Debating nature vs nurture involves whether human behavior is determined by the environment, either prenatal or during a person's life, or by a person's genes. The alliterative expression "nature and nurture" in English has been in use since at least the Elizabethan period and goes back to medieval French.

Regarding racial history, nurture is a platform for how one can assess the internal and external views of African Americans. The oppressive trauma created over ten generations cannot be omitted from consideration. Likewise, it is not limited to just black people but whites, natives, and anyone who witnesses white American dynamics.

The combination of the two concepts was complementary in ancient Greece. Nature is what we think of as pre-wiring and is influenced by genetic inheritance and other biological factors. Nurture is generally taken as the influence of external factors after conception e.g. the product of exposure, experience, and learning on an individual.

Regarding my personal life and this subject, it’s important to note that my son’s mother is white and from a large immediate family. I am black and from a smaller immediate family. After separation, she and I secured a home for her to raise him in, I did most of the commuting to give balance for him to have consistent access to both parents.

Nurture in its contemporary sense was popularized by the English Victorian polymath Francis Galton, a founder of eugenics and behavioral genetics, discussing the influence of heredity and environment on social advancement. Galton was influenced by the book On the Origin of Species written by his half-cousin, Charles Darwin.

This blog contends that nature vs nurture is relevant in the emotional and intellectual growth of black African Americans and white European Americans. Both collective anxiety and guilt affect the feelings in both communities as a result of white laws that permitted every form of abuse imaginable from Europeans to Africans from the 15th to the mid 19th century in South, Central, the Caribbean, and North America.

Humans acquire all or almost all their behavioral traits from "nurture" was termed tabula rasa ("blank slate") by John Locke in 1690. The debate between "blank-slate" denial of the influence of heritability, and the view admitting both environmental and heritable traits, has often been cast in terms of nature versus nurture. These two conflicting approaches to human development were at the core of an ideological dispute over research agendas throughout the second half of the 20th century.

Yet with my analytical view as a black man, I suggest more people balance our cerebral findings to involve our emotional ones. This could create a deeper and clearer decision about the parallels and conflicts of nature vs nurture. DNA, bloodlines carry weight, influence, and power, still, I submit that learned behavior has a stronger representation than many of us understand.

The strong dichotomy of nature versus nurture has thus been claimed to have limited relevance in some fields of research. Close feedback loops have been found in which "nature" and "nurture" influence one another constantly, as seen in self-domestication.

In 1865, Mark Twain said: "Lincoln's Proclamation ... not only set the black slaves free but set the white man free also". This was an episode of intersectionality with America’s traumatic nurturing that is owned by both communities. The freedom that the law created nurtured equitable feelings that can be added to any current conversation about bondage.

In ecology and behavioral genetics, researchers think nurture has an essential influence on nature. Similarly, in other fields, the dividing line between an inherited and an acquired trait becomes unclear, as in epigenetics or fetal development.

Yes, overall, I value nurture as much or more than nature. I offer these concluding nurture-based views per moving to the 20th century Civil Rights Movement, black misogyny, and this century's #BlackLivesMatter Movement.

The behavioral response to black justice directly resulted in nearly all 8 civil rights laws passed in America. These episodic accomplishments have improved the lives of many citizens at the cost of many lives (most of whom were black). Nurture plays a comparable part with nature in how we continue to rebuild the family structure to counter the white slavery dynamic taught about disrespecting our women, our color, and our elders. Finally Taking the current African immigration to America into account, nurturing how Africans in America navigate how #BlackLivesMatter in our future.

by B. Mchie