A Thought Experiment About Race and Hope

Steven Barnes
5 min readAug 5, 2019

I’m not going to try to “prove” the following. It is a statement of the way I see things, based on decades of thought. Doesn’t make it correct, but if correct, it is better said than unsaid.

For a moment, let’s assume there are two different views of human beings: that we are basically evil, or basically good. YES, there are other options, including mixtures of these, but for a moment, let’s just look at these. One might also phrase this as the battle between love and fear.

A: Humans are basically good/loving

B: Humans are basically evil/fearful

O.K.? Just take this as a thought experiment, grasping that we aren’t really talking about people, but about the way people SEE people. The second set deals specifically with one of the core issues that has deviled America for centuries: racism. Here, again, you have two BASIC positions (with of course, variations and combinations.)

C: Human tribes are basically equal (nurture over nature, existence over essence)

D: Human tribes are basically unequal (nature over nurture, essence over existence)

Let’s not argue which is true. These conversations have been going on for thousands of years, and we’re not going to solve them today. Personally, I don’t think the differing beliefs are a matter of logic, I think them a matter of underlying faith…we then seek out the information that confirms that gut-hunch, that sense that we got in Bible school, or at the feet of our parents or society. But that, too, is another discussion. Let’s just look at the results of having these different beliefs, shall we? The possible results of each position.

A+C.. A person who believes people are basically good, and that we are basically equal? This person will have little fear of the future. Will have faith that we will ride out any problems, which are just road-bumps along the path.

A+D. This person believes we are basically good, but that qualities differ between groups. This person, in touch with their own loving nature, is likely to develop a “Noblesse Oblige” attitude. Paternal, but not deliberately repressive. They feel they must be the shepherds to those less fortunate than themselves; “it wasn’t their fault. God did this to them.” Would be a logical conclusion of such a person of Faith.

B+C. Believes we are basically evil, or driven by fear. But that we are all equal in…



Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes is a NY Times bestselling author, ecstatic husband and father, and holder of black belts in three martial arts. www.lifewritingpodcast.com.