Humanity isn’t really the problem, it’s our particular culture and society. And cultures and societies can be changed.
I work with a Native American group in rural Mexico. Their culture and society has a history of systemic misogyny. Up until a few decades ago and still to some degree today, women were treated as the property of their fathers and husbands. It was typical for girls as young as nine or ten to be sold into marriage, sometimes to total strangers from other areas and they would never see their families again. Even in more loving families, fathers would expect a bride price to arrange a marriage with someone from the village, and since the young men often felt the fathers expected too much, it became common to kidnap girls, rape them and then negotiate a discount price to take them off their father’s hands, since they were no longer virgins. This practice became so normalized that the idiomatic expression for “get married” in their language literally translates to “steal a little girl.” Domestic abuse is very common and it was expected that men beat their wives and children to make sure they stayed obedient. Until fairly recently, no schooling past elementary was available for girls, and there was no way for women to earn incomes. If young women ran away to the city to try to find different opportunities, they often became the victims of human traffickers.
If someone were to look at the culture and society and say, “Well, this is a sin problem and all we need to do is teach individual fathers and husbands to treat women better” it would not address the societal-level issues that the whole community has allowed to take deep root; lack of education and economic opportunity for girls, a misogynistic system of marriage where brides and mothers have no consent, lack of society-level recourses to escape abuse or hold abusers accountable, constant danger for young girls of being kidnapped and raped by others in the community. It would not change the customs or ideas of justice to give women any more rights or standing in the community. Systemic cultural problems require systemic changes.
Things are gradually becoming better for women. The government has opened schools so girls can now get an education through high school without leaving the community. The government has started programs that help women run small cottage industries so they have some economic independence. Development organizations have done lots of awareness raising about domestic violence and health care providers have begun reporting when they see signs of abuse in their patients and parents and husbands are being held legally accountable for harm. The church has started emphasizing that good fathers protect and provide for their daughters and wives as people who belong to God not just their family. Now no one who sells his daughter to a non-Christian or has a son who steals another man’s daughter can be in church leadership. They have emphasized to young men that marriage should involve both the consent of the family and the consent of the young woman, and that husbands should love their wives like their own bodies and not hurt them. The church has started asking men to wait until their daughters are 15 or 16 to arrange marriages, so that they are less likely to die or suffer harm in childbirth. Slowly some of the most tragic customs are giving way to new norms that value women more and respect their human rights more.
The moral is that “humanity” did not need to be fundamentally transformed for these changes to start. People had to recognize there was a problem and start pressuring people to change the way things were done by the whole community. That is what people advocating for systemic change to address racial justice are asking for. Asking individuals to deal with personal sin doesn’t change inequities in sentencing and incarceration rates. It doesn’t address disparities in wealth caused by centuries of biased lending, hiring, buying, and selling. It doesn’t deal with substandard education and healthcare in many minority communities. It doesn’t address the rampant brutality that minorities face at the hands of law enforcement. It doesn’t change unjust racial profiling. It doesn’t address the fact that testing in schools and research in medicine is normed against a White standard. Addressing these societal-level issues are very reasonable goals and do not require “transforming humanity.” It does require changing attitudes that the status quo is fine or inevitable.