Q&A with Susan Fiske on Being Human

What Does Prejudice Reveal About What It Means to be Human?

What happens when we define some people as more human than others? A Q&A with Susan Fiske about the new science of racism.

Jeremy Adam Smith: What does prejudice reveal about what it means to be human?

Susan T. Fiske: Well, for me it reveals two things. It reveals something good about human nature, which is that we care deeply about our in-groups. It’s only human to be comfortable with people who you think are like you; there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it gets us through a lot of stress—to be attached to our in-groups is our backup system.

But the downside is that you’re then excluding people who are not in the in-group. That’s the problem, especially in modern society, where it’s better to be able to deal with a variety of people and to deal with them respectfully.