In the 1890s and early 1900s Russian Psychologist, Physiologist and Physician Ivan Pavlov did a study in which he introduced various stimuli, such as the ringing of a bell, before each feeding of a dog. After some time he removed food from the equation and only rang the bell. Simply the stimulus of a ringing bell, having been associated with the expectation of food for a period of time, was enough to get the dog to salivate. The term "conditional reflex" was developed which later became known as "conditioning." As I was watching the news about the riots in Toledo yesterday, as harsh as this may sound, I am afraid that a great bulk of Black America is no different from Pavlov's Dog. It is a perfect case of response to conditioning.
In the riot about 114 people were arrested for various forms of civil unrest in which they, vandalized vehicles, and stores, set fire to a bar, and attacked police and emergency rescue vehicles. So, what sparked this protest and riot? Less than 25 members of the so-called National Socialist Movement, which calls itself "America's Nazi Party," planned a march at a park in Toledo. Did you comprehend that? Less than 25 Nazis gathering for a march sparked a riot. On a side note, I find it interesting that nowhere in the written reports do you find any mention of the fact that there were white anarchist groups present opposing and agitating against the Nazis prior to things getting out of hand. The blame for the violence and destruction has been put on gangs seeing an opportunity. I believe that this is a cop out though.
With regard to the conditioned response, as Toledo Mayor Jack Ford said: "It's exactly what they (the Nazis) wanted.'' This is evident in that the march was canceled and the Nazis had left town hours before the riots began. I can see them "high fiveing" it all the way home. All that these people wanted was to start something, and to get some attention. The black residents of one area of Toledo more than accommodated them. Mission accomplished. Another interesting thing is that this occurred on the same day as the "Millions More" gathering was taking place in Washington D.C. but the Toledo event has now managed to garner much more attention than the Farrakhan event. I believe the two things are not unrelated.
This brings me back to my title for this piece, and Pavlov's conditioned behavior study. You cannot expect to present people with a certain picture of reality over and over again, asking them to form certain views in light of that picture, without it invoking a predictable response. The Toledo mayor correctly stated that this is exactly what the Nazis wanted and could predictably have expected. This violent reaction to less than 24 Nazis marching is the equivalent of a dog salivating to a bell ringing without the presence food. A mere symbol with no meat behind it. What harm can 25, or even 100, ignorant, attention seeking people do to an entire race, especially in an evironment in which the national conscience is opposed to such racist ideology? I propose to you- none. What do you think would have happened if the 20 or so Nazis showed up anywhere and no one else did? They and their movement would die a swift and silent death. It has, however, become all too predictable now that the KKK or other such groups will announce a meeting in a town, and the media plays it up. In most cases 3-10 KKK or Nazi members will actually show up and you end up with a much larger number of protestors than racist marchers. The media will cover it and make it look much larger than it actually is, and the racist group gets the attention they sought and need to survive. How long will we be so foolish and fall into this trap? The Toledo event has not only fallen into their trap, but has exceeded their grandest hopes. Mark my words, there are plans being made around the country by several groups at this very moment for more such events based solely on the success of the Toledo march, which turned out not even to be a march.
It is time for black Americans, and others with sense to rise above this and speak wisdom into this situation. No, we do not need Jesse Jackson, or Howard Dean, to tell us how this is evidence of the growing tide of racism and poverty in America, or neglect by the Bush administration. It is rhetoric and thinking like this that is the cause of the Pavlovian reaction by so many of our people, not the remedy. We need a cure for the conditioned response. We need vision and hope not doom, gloom and immediate outrage. We need to be smarter than this.