Outside of Africa
After writing my previous essay, We are Good and Bad at the Same Time, I thought about what Dr. Wrangham said about chimpanzees and humans being the only animals that live in groups that will kill others in different groups and also those in their group.
I thought about times when I watched chimps swinging around at zoos and never thought about their traits. The same is true of other wild animals. While overseas, I held a young leopard as it drank milk from a bottle, and I tentatively petted a sleeping tiger.
I also interviewed a Tibetan yak.
That is my experience of dealing with wild animals in the wild; none of my encounters were with chimpanzees. However, years ago, I lived in Dixon, IL, where Ronald Reagan had lived and went to school.
Dixon benefited from anything having to do with Reagan. They had a souvenir shop containing tee shirts, banners, glasses, plates, and various Reagan-esque memorabilia. I recalled several movie posters, one of which was Bedtime for Bonzo.
However, Bonzo demonstrated problematic behavior.
Anthropologists date the splitting of chimpanzees from humans around 5.5 to 7 mya. Scientists have sequenced chimpanzees’ DNA and compared it with human DNA. They have found that the difference between the DNA of chimpanzees and humans is 1.2%.
Now, we know a little more than we did about our evolution. So, what? We can learn about life today in the 21st century if we apply what we know about humans and chimpanzees. Our DNA is only different by 1.2%. Therefore, we share many traits. Both chimps and humans are proactive and reactive when it comes to aggression. Proactive aggression occurs when one plans an aggressive action instead of reactive aggression, which isn’t planned. When humans are more proactive, we won’t fly off the handle as quickly as chimpanzees. Chimpanzees will react emotionally without much forethought and kill other chimpanzees from another group or kill within their tribe.
On January 7 in Memphis, TN, we have a tragic example of the five police officers who copied the chimpanzees’ reactive response. That barbaric episode resulted in the death of Tyre Nichols three days later while he was in the hospital. The five cops killed a person who wasn’t in their group. Race wasn’t the issue because the five black police officers killed a black person.
Their reactive aggression was already loaded as they got out of their cars. Race didn’t enter their Weltanschauung. What caused their response had to do with their police mindset. They were a part of the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods, SCORPION. Attorney Ben Crump, the Nichols’ attorney, said, “...what we’ve seen this month in Memphis and for many years in many places is that the behavior of these units can morph into wolf packs....”
The behavior of those cops is identical to the reactive aggressiveness of chimpanzees. The black cops wanted to control people who were in the same group. Nichols wasn’t murdered due to race. He was killed because the police couldn’t control the same type of behavior as chimpanzees.
America needs to address many systematic problems. We need to deal with racism and xenophobia, which started in 1691. Our nation went to war in 1861 to end slavery. Over a century and a half since the Civil War, we still haven’t gotten to equality.
Cops pull over 50,000 drivers per day. Black drivers are 20% more likely than whites to be stopped. All too often, being stopped for some alleged violation results in being killed. Driving while black is dangerous.
This is a PBS video about driving while black.