Currents and Futures
[NOTE: Join a LIVE DISCUSSION of this topic, with like-minded change agents, on 11 April. See information at the end of this article…]Greetings;There are some who misinterpreted my remarks in C-F 04. I said that I believe Zimmerman’s primary motivation was an issue of “manhood”, not an issue of “race”. I was NOT saying that racism no longer exists, or is only a minor issue. RACISM IS ALIVE AND WELL IN AMERICA.
Let’s divide “RACISM” into three parts: Structural/Systemic, Interpersonal and Psychic/Spiritual. Which parts of “racism” are alive, here in America in the 21st Century?
The part that is NOT is the structural/systemic racism. The SYSTEM of American Apartheid, that pervaded every aspect of our society, is gone… from the books. The Civil Rights Movement was a success.
The American Apartheid system simply meant black life was worth nothing. A black person was subject to summary execution, for the crime of being black. They had no recourse – in the infamous “Dread Scott” Supreme Court ruling (1857), Chief Justice Taney declared that “The negro has no rights which the white man is bound to respect.” Including the right to life.
That day is gone. Let a cross be burned on the lawn of a black person, anywhere in the United States, and watch what local, state and federal law enforcement does.
“Racism” lives in the interpersonal and psychic/ consciousness/ spiritual realms. The problem is that we shifted our behavior without fully shifting our consciousness or psychic energy. This is the next battleground – not courts of law or politics.
What is the problem? I think the most eloquent and powerful statement about this form of “racism” comes from poet and Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry:
If white people have suffered less obviously from racism than black people, they have nevertheless suffered greatly; the cost has been greater perhaps then we can yet know.
If the white man has inflicted the wound of racism upon black men, the cost has been that he would receive the mirror image of that wound into himself.
As the master, or as a member of the dominant race, he has felt little compulsion to acknowledge it or speak of it; the more painful it has grown the more deeply he has hidden it within himself.
But the wound is there, and it is a profound disorder, as great a damage in his mind as it is in his society.
This wound is in me, as complex and deep in my flesh as blood and nerves.
This “hidden wound” lies deep within the heart of each of us, black and white. The fact that the white wound is so deeply denied makes the black wound that much more painful.
In this spiritual, psychic woundedness, we are not returning to the “bad old days”… WE NEVER LEFT.
Who suffers this wound? EVERYONE. If you are reading this, and you were raised in this country, I’m talking to YOU. In our formal and our casual interactions, in our work and our play, in our intimate relationships and our acquaintanceships… it’s THERE. It’s felt. It is an integral part of the fabric of “America” – which makes it so difficult to acknowledge and defeat.
I believe that millions of whites in America deeply and sincerely WANT this hidden wound to go away. They no longer wish to be carriers and they especially don’t want to transmit this wound to their descendants. They come to forums on race and racism by the thousands, they hold marches and candlelight vigils, they sign petitions…
… and it’s not enough. This wound must be addressed at the level in which it lives – it is a spiritual wound and can only be addressed on a spiritual level. Words are as useless as trying to talk cancer into going away…
So, what will work?
Don’t think for one minute that this process belongs to whites alone! While blacks are the primary victims of the wound… we are also CARRIERS and SPREADERS. We perpetuate the wound – whites become the universal scapegoats for black anti-social behavior. When put into positions of power, many blacks act out the wound. For many blacks, being wounded is a primary identity… they don’t exist without their woundedness. The “hidden wound” cannot stop unless EVERYBODY stops it.
PS: Let’s engage in a live dialog on this subject! (Yes, this will become part of the already scheduled dialog.) If you are interested in a FREE phone gathering, on Wednesday, 11 April at 7pm Pacific time, using the Maestro Conference interface, please register by clicking here: Currents & Futures Live Discussion. It is free, but registration is necessary to receive call-in instructions.