Accepted AnswerIt's taboo among whites to acknowledge we have injured someone and need to seek pardon. Very simply, I sense this at the basis of a lot of white racism: we know perfectly well what is going on, and it costs us a lot to keep ignoring it but we fear the price would be higher if we paid attention.
The amazing, grateful truth is that we have so much more love and energy when we pay attention, seek pardon, make amends, do differently. The price feels high but that's a lie we've already paid dearly for. When we try truth, we find it repays us one hundredfold and more!
Accepted Answer“There is a reason why black and white people see the world differently. It has a lot to do with how we were introduced to one another. Perhaps it’s time reintroduce ourselves and start anew.” ~Elvis Jon Evans
The above quote was a Facebook status update that I posted a few days after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the Trayvon Martin murder trial. It could have just as easily been stated days after the 1995 Simpson acquittal.
From my view of the world, I believe the difficulty of racial dialogue among black and white Americans stems from our dissimilar perception, interpretation and reaction to the same stimuli. It’s not so much an issue of color as it is an issue of seeing and understanding. I honestly believe that, for the most part, Americans have largely moved beyond pigmentation, but we get tripped up over mindsets. We tend not to like the way other people think; especially the way they think about us.
It is our varying and disagreeing perceptivity and our inability to consider opposing viewpoints that often divide us and make racial dialogue, not only uncomfortable, but oftentimes civilly impossible. So we find ourselves either hermetically sealed from the conversation of race, or in civil disarray. Then we fall prey to a disconnectedness that occurs when we make the mistake of believing that one perception is more righteous than the other.
We all are contemporaneous witnesses to the world around us; even so, our retelling of the thing we witness varies because we see with more than our eyesight, we also see with brains filled with experiences, both individual and ancestral.
Our ancestral past impresses our view of the present moment. How could it not? It is the very thing that keeps us from repeating a distressful history. There are rudiments of our personal and ancestral experiences that are stashed away in random places that become triggered under certain neuro-associative conditions.
As an example, for good or bad, since 9/11 Americans have changed how it navigates not only on the world stage, but also at home. We like to believe that we are dauntless, but truthfully, we live fearfully armed behind guns, drones and wiretaps while walking shoeless through airport radar screens.
These things have been added from the fear of another 9/11 attack. Some argue that such measures are extreme while others believe that they are not enough. It comes down to perspective wrought with personal or learned experiences. Someone living in Michigan, who caught the headlines of 9/11, may have a different perspective than someone who barely escaped the falling towers.
In the aftermath of 9/11, we erected stone monuments engraved with the words, “We shall never forget.” We began to redefine in our psyches what a terrorist and or terrorism was. That redefinition became Sharpie marked on our brains, and we commenced to treat individuals and groups that mentally matched our new definition as suspects. We began to react largely to illusions rather than facts. Nevertheless, we would never accept anyone calling us out for playing the “9/11 card” because the consensus is that such measures keep us safe.
So it is with racism; we navigate through life wearing spectacles with lens colored by our own experiences. We become conditioned by those experiences.
Wisdom flourishes in the minds of those who accept that our perceptions are only part of the whole story. It’s when we challenge ourselves to investigate the whole picture that our beliefs are either validated, or we expand our knowledge of the world around us.
Remember the movie the Matrix? It was the Oracle that said, “We can’t see beyond choices we don’t understand.” Black and white people will never understand one another’s choices until they understand the construct of those choices. It’s not as black and white as one may think.
It’s clear that racism exists on all ends of the color spectrum. However, for most, it is that thing called ignorance… that lack of knowledge and understanding that creates discord and fogs reality. We can continue to live in ignorance, grossly misinterpreting reality, or we can task ourselves with understanding why others see the world as they do. It’s not until we understand the construction of opposing viewpoints that we truly appreciate what we, ourselves hold as truth. That may be the difference between rote memory and true learning. Understanding is not blind acceptance, but is the essential ingredient for an evolving humanity.
As we are now, we can’t help but see the world differently. How could we not? We greet one another with our own memory of a dividing past, and we are, for the most part, unaware of the opposing perception of the very same past. We are blinded to the other story.
We ask ourselves why people are as they are, and the answer that comes back is… pigmentation. We miss that people are composed of individual experiences or ancestral teaching. We view one another by way of the labels we attribute to pigmentation. Those labels are constructed by our perceptions of other’s perceptions. To borrow from W.E.B. Dubois, The problem of the 21st century is the problem of the “perception” line.
We are at the dawn of a new day, and there is nothing as consistent and persistent as change. However, the right change occurs when it combines contributions from those who bring understanding to the table rather than prate opinions.
“The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn” ~Alvin Toffler.
Our racial wounds will begin to heal when to seek to understand not only the issue of our disagreements, but the root of our disagreements. As much as we try, we can’t love or hate the thing we don’t understand. The way forward must be paved with understanding.
~Elvis Jon Evans
Guestmore than a month agoAppreciate so many of the comments you made Elvis. Yes indeed we truly experience the world differently and the vast majority of people can admit that theoretically but when you get down to sharing those experiences across race it seems to break down because of the way we were "introduced to each other" and the subsequent history. We battle as to the interpretation of what is happening or not happening. I agree we need to reintroduce ourselves to each other, begin to build bonds of trust and unity and on that foundation begin to process with each other what we are experiencing and why. But I don't believe you can solve a problem, as has been often stated, from the same consciousness it was created. It is a self-centered, ego driven, power based consciousness based on a sort of materialistic view toward life that created the racial conditions we are in. If we are to change that, it has to be changed from another level of consciousness, different from what created the problem. We (those who have historically been in the dominant position and those who have historically been in the subordinate position) have to tap something more noble in ourselves and believe that it can be appealed to in others. I have to believe, however frustrating it can be when there is not immediate response, that if I take the high ground and tap my higher self I will be creating the best possible conditions for racial understanding, justice and unity to take place. A simple example may be that a white person is determined to eliminate prejudice in themselves and he or she reaches out to someone black and is viewed with suspicion and distrust. What is the high ground response? As a Black person who continuously witnesses and experiences prejudicial and/or racist behavior from White folk? What is the high ground response to White folks they may interact with or work with, given they've had and continue to have such experiences? Healing the wounds of racism demands that we support each other in taking the high road. That is my current thinking. Thanks Elvis, Tod from the Race Story ReWrite Team
Accepted AnswerBecause they are only focused on an imagining, not reality. There really is only one race - the Human Race. All the division of humanity we are familiar with based on skin color, shape of head, ears, noses, hair textures and colors, etc. etc. find many excepts when applied. There are people with dark skin but have straight hair, there are short and tall varieties in almost every kind of "race".
I can only speak from a US "white" person's background, for many it is the shamefulness of ignornace of what it is like to be an "other" that makes it hard to be open to discuss race as an issue. Due to the ignorance, there is the belief that nothing is wrong, as we have heard it said: "why can't they just get along like everyone else".
My journey to heal my imbalance of understanding the race issue began when I feel in love with a lady who looked be an African American, but who turned out to be only half "black" and the other half was made up of Cherokee and another American Indian tribe with some European mixed in. We had long talks about "our differences" from which my ignorance began to be replaced with her personal knowledge. As sometimes life deals us changes we had forseen, we separated.
From that time on I had a longing to learn more. Many years later I joined a very diverse group of people who came from many racial mixtures, sexes, ages, social-economical backgrounds and personalities. This group was struggling to come to terms with the most challenging issue facing America today, "What is our Race and how does it apply to us?" From that group I would say the way to make it easier for people to become engaged in achieving an understanding, which will permanently heal the ills heaped upon by our ancestors and our own folly, is to invite peope to accompany us in the struggle that only all of us can win victory over. The goal of the struggle is to become that one single race THE HUMAN RACE.
Todmore than a month agoWish I could think of something profound to say in response..but I cannot so I will simply say I appreciate very much what you had to say! I will say that if we invite people to join us in the struggle, we really need to create the spirit and the space to work together. We have to authentically want to learn from each other with no one in the one down position but all in a posture of humility. Thanks from Tod