On July 4th, I took my kids to their first Yankee game. I’ve been a fan since I was 7. My kids are almost four and two, so I was thrilled that they had a blast at the game, since I hope they’ll be lifelong fans.
Every morning, I tell them the outcome of the game, and often fill them in on the Red Sox, too, since they are in a tight battle for first place. When the Yankees lost the other day, my daughter pouted and said, “I’m so sad they lost!” I had to smile, since it meant she was starting to get invested, but it also got me thinking about how to teach about not only winning and losing, but also “us” and “them.” After all, when you go to Yankee Stadium, you hear more than just, “Let’s go Yankees!” You’ll also hear “Red Sox suck!” So how could I teach my kids to be a proud member of “us” without denigrating “them?”
Robert Sapolsky is a psychologist and is the author of the new book Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. He recently wrote an article in Nautilus entitled “Why Your Brain Hates Other People,” and reminds us that we automatically divide the world into an “us/them” mentality:
Humans universally make Us/Them dichotomies along lines of race, ethnicity, gender, language group, religion, age, socioeconomic status, and so on. And it’s not a pretty picture. We do so with remarkable speed and neurobiological efficiency; have complex taxonomies and classifications of ways in which we denigrate Thems; do so with a versatility that ranges from the minutest of microaggression to bloodbaths of savagery; and regularly decide what is inferior about Them based on pure emotion, followed by primitive rationalizations that we mistake for rationality. Pretty depressing.