Maya Angelou once said that prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible. Here we are in the middle of June, in the year 2020; in the midst of a global pandemic. But it is the harsh reality of racism in the United States of America that has consumed the world’s attention. It is not that racism in the world has suddenly been created or has increased. “Instead, it is that current events have ripped back the curtain and have made what has always been there both transparent and obvious… It has exposed the societal wound that was never healed.
I am not tone deaf enough to miss the fact that the very last person on earth that people want to hear from right now is a “white girl”. And so I find myself torn between that awareness and the reality that as a ‘spokesperson’ for that which is beyond physical incarnation (including species or race), my voice is a necessary ingredient for change.
The perspective I am going to share in this message to the human race is not a popular one. It is not a message that fits with the current mainstream narrative. It is certainly not politically correct. But it is the only way to actually end racism.
We know that ‘racist people’ exist. There are white supremacists. There are police who profile Blacks and Hispanics and ‘Muslims’. There are bosses who won’t hire minorities. But we need to take our focus off of them because our capacity to know what to do with these people among us, is dependent upon our ability to do something else… To recognize and admit to the racism in ourselves and work with the vulnerability underneath it.
Most people walking the planet today do not see themselves as racist. They have already accepted the societal belief that racism is bad.
It is now politically correct to say things like “I don’t see color only people” and “only laundry should be separated by color”. It is now politically correct to slip into white savior complex. It is politically correct to save spots in your companies for minorities so as to not appear racist. It is politically correct for a university to hold a certain amount of scholarships or spots open for people of certain races. It is politically correct when a company advertises or when someone makes a movie to ‘racial hire’ for the sake of PR. And contrary to popular perception, instead of this ending racism, it simply buries it to fester.
The ego is nothing more than a sense of self. It is self-concept. As such, it is obsessed with being ‘good’ and ‘right’. It is also obsessed with survival (staying safe). Because we are a social species, we depend on the group to get a great many of our needs met. It is critical for other members of whatever group or society we belong in, to see us as good and right. Otherwise, we are pushed away and our survival is threatened. But this means that if the social group decides that something is bad and wrong, we must disown, reject and deny it in ourselves. Doing this doesn’t make it go away. It just makes it so we become defiantly unconscious and unaware of it.
The second that racism became bad and wrong; people simply suppressed it and selectively identified with being against racism. This means that instead of genuinely integrating with different races, not being racist simply became one more thing to decorate our ego with.
I am going to make a claim that people who are the most egotistically identified with anti-racism will immediately reject and fight me on… Everyone is racist.
The general definition of racism is: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group. It often involves the belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another.
Many people believe that only the members of a group that has the power can be called racist. For example, many blacks in America believe it is not possible for blacks to be racist because whites are the ones with the power and are therefore the ones with the upper hand in an unfair system that supports oppression, dehumanization, demoralization and injustice. But having power only allows racism to create more damage. Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism as well as the belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities is something that can and does exist inside everyone, regardless of whether they are the member of a race that has more power in society or not. And each and every one of us must see it in ourselves regardless of what race we belong to or how much power we hold (or lack) within a society.
We must powerfully own our racism and not shame ourselves for it, but directly work with our perceptions that create the “push away” of a specific race. The reality is that the mind identifies patterns and it groups things together. It works rather like a computer in this way. In many ways, this helps you to make quick decisions and survive. So here is painful truth #1: You may think and say that you are capable of not generalizing and that you never stereotype, but actually your brain can’t not do it. It is designed to do it. Generalization is a conceptual tool. It is a tool that can be quite beneficial and can be quite detrimental, therefore it is a tool that should be used with caution. But it can’t be thrown out. Without generalization, we could never talk about commonalities, trends, tendencies or patterns and all three are critical when it comes to awareness. It is as important when it comes to awareness to identify commonalities, trends, tendencies and patterns as it is to be aware that there are exceptions. Unless we recognize the commonality in the first place, we will not look into the why behind it.
You may say things like “to generalize is to be an idiot” or “I don’t believe in stereotypes” or “I don’t see color only people”. But the problem is, your mind does. If you see people of the same race doing certain things or behaving in certain ways, the mind goes to work equating those behaviors with that person’s race. We call this a stereotype. It is no use to spend your time denying commonalities and identifying exceptions so you are nothing like those “shameful, hurtful, ignorant people” who you don’t want to have anything to do with. What is useful is to see that perceiving patterns and commonalities that exist within the members of a group create expectations. Things like Asians are awesome at math, Black men are violent, Mexicans are illegal immigrants, White people are rich. And expectations alter the way we act towards people. It can cause us to act in ways that hurt ourselves and others.
Painful truth #2. All generalizations and stereotypes exist for a reason. The question is what reason? That is not to say that they all exist for a good reason or because they are all right. Some stereotypes are false. Some have been intentionally created despite inaccuracy to cause harm. But many stereotypes are in fact accurate assessments of commonalities, trends, tendencies and patterns. That being said, generalizing and stereotyping have a bad reputation for good reason. If you look at the etymology of the word stereotype, it is: “Firm or solid impression”. This is where you can get into trouble with generalizing and stereotyping. Where there is firmness and solidness, there is a risk for a disowning of flexibility and openness. Not being aware that there are exceptions and differences can make you unaware and close-minded. It is not that generalizations are all un true. It is that they can open you up to the danger of making one story the only story. And that can hurt you and everything else around you. But contrary to popular opinion, generalizing and stereotyping is an essential and natural feature of your mind. It is not a cultural, unnatural glitch in your mind. Generalizations can be inaccurate and harmful. Conversely, they can also be accurate and useful… A critical tool for learning, comprehension and communication. Therefore, question your generalizations and the why they exist. And make your generalizations flexible instead of being determined to not make them at all.
Underneath all racism is the perception of threat. This means that vulnerability is underneath racism. When the ego is threatened, it pushes that which it sees as ‘other’ away from itself. It wants to gain power in order to be safer. The ego perceives itself (and is therefore strengthened) through comparison. It compares itself to other things in the world. And the ego needs to see itself as good, superior, right and justified. So, the ego uses the mind to look at these stereotypes and decides what those observational stereotypes mean in relationship to itself. The ego uses the mind to look at these stereotypes and seeks to make itself feel good, superior, right and justified by contrast. For example, if a stereotype a person holds is: black people are animals, their ego can feel sophisticated by comparison and therefore see that black person as inferior to them. But that then determines how they treat the black person.
No one one earth is born a bigot. We are not born racist. We are socialized into families and cultures where racist perspectives exist. We adopt those perspectives so as to establish solidarity and belonging with our social group instead of being ‘cast out’ and ‘made inferior’ by our social group. We are not born with meaning intact. When we are young we are fed meaning by the adults in our lives. We are fed painful meaning about other races by the social groups we belong to. We also become racist based on painful personal experiences that we have. To carry around painful beliefs and painful meaning and to live with a worldview of separation is painful.
But if you want to end racism in the world,
I have an exercise for you: Be brave enough to make a list of all the negative racial generalizations, stereotypes or beliefs that you have.
For example: White people are self-centered, Hispanics are dirty, you’ve got to be careful walking by a Black man, Asians are terrible drivers. No Indian will ever let their kid marry someone who isn’t Indian etc.
Your answers will be unique to you because of your upbringing, nationality, race, culture and personal life experiences. But this is the time to become completely aware of what they are, no matter how bad or good it may sound. Ask yourself relative to each stereotype, what do I make this mean? Then ask yourself, how does that meaning change my relationship, thoughts, words and actions relative to people of this race? Look over the list you have completed with your racial stereotypes and what you make those stereotypes mean and how that meaning makes you think and behave. This time, try to see the various types of pain this has caused you and does cause you today. Also, try to see if you can figure out where these stereotypes came from. Which stereotypes were adopted and which ones came from painful personal experiences. Once you have done that, see if you can see the kind of pain this racism of yours might have caused, or could cause people of that race.
After we become aware of this root, we need to be willing to have open dialogue with one another about the vulnerable, painful root below our racism. We need to be open about HOW we became racist. And we need to be open to heal those experiences.
To heal is to experience the opposite. If we feel demeaned, to heal is to feel valued. If we are lonely, to heal is to achieve togetherness. If we are chronically feeling poor, to heal is to feel abundant. If we are traumatized by snakes, to heal is to form a different association with snakes so that instead of feeling negative towards them, we feel positive towards them.
To heal from racism is to identify the pain relative to a race and to experience the opposite relative to that race… And THIS puts the power both in the hands of the person trying to heal their aversion to a race and in the hands of a person who belongs to the race that a person has an aversion to. It’s time to seek out and create these “healing” experiences between different races within human society. But we can only do this if we de-shamify racism.
We become racist as the result of pain. The ego takes over when the being feels threatened. So, if we become racist as a result of pain, the question is, what pain? The racist himself does not know that pain is what the racism is about. The pain is the vulnerable root of the racism and if that pain was resolved or healed, the racism (which is just a branch off of that root) will not exist. We may have had a painful experience in our personal life (or several) relative to people who belong to a certain race. Or we may be in pain because of pain passed down through the generations so that each generation will grow up with it. Sometimes racism becomes a part of our own racial identity. The reason we cannot overcome racism is because we are not addressing BOTH the very real pain of the person who is on the receiving end of the racism and the very real pain of the person who is being racist. When we turn the racist into the bad guy and the victim of the racist into the good guy, we cannot recognize that what unites them both is pain. We make healing impossible.
The single biggest thing we can do to end racism in the world today, is to de-shamify it. At what point in human history did saying that someone shouldn’t feel or think a certain way (because it is bad to feel or think that way) ever actually change the way that a person thought or felt? The answer is never. No prejudice, discrimination, antagonism or belief that a different race possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities will end by trying to make people see it is bad and wrong or by protesting against it. Lawmakers may make changes in response to public pressure. But never make the mistake of thinking that these changes that happen in response to public pressure means the underlying issue has changed. Instead, it simply means the issue has been driven deeper underground.
It is a given that racism hurts people. But if we continue to make it so bad and so wrong, because of how the human ego works, no one will be able to see it in themselves, much less to admit to it. This makes healing it impossible. This condemns us to a gaslighting world where racism thrives under the curtain of a world that says it doesn’t exist.
If we want racism to end, we have to stop allowing political correctness to hide what is real. We must make conversations about race, no longer taboo. If we can face these stereotypes and the pain behind them on both sides, racism might just become a thing of the past.