BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT SEEN AS CLEANING UP OUR COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS
I am a white male, in his mid-80s, well educated (bachelor’s degree from Ohio State as well as Divinity and Doctoral degrees from Boston University) and self-identified as a progressive/liberal. Throughout my life, I have related personally and professionally to several persons who are black - I thought of them as friends. I have always supported causes that I thought would help black persons.
I have been amazed recently by the coverage given by TV and press to police killings of black persons. We used to hear about it but, by the next day, we had moved on to a different story, so the extent of police prejudice was not on full display. But it has been different with the protestors of all ages and color who just will not let it go with their continual peaceful protests week after week after week. Something is changing. It is no longer just a black problem but one that calls for basic change in our society.
I have often said that I have never intentionally been racist. But the more I have learned and experienced in the last several years have led me to think of that statement, “I’ve never been intentionally racist”, as irrelevant. The idea of white privilege never occurred to me until I began reading about it. Yes, indeed, I did live my life on a different playing field than was available to blacks with a similar educational background. Yes, I have been anxious when getting pulled over by a policeman, but I never felt that I might be treated unjustly or with violence. I was not aware of how government housing policies made blacks live in substandard areas of cities and made it difficult if not impossible to buy homes in suburbs. It was not just the prejudice of a few people, although that was often manipulated by real estate agents and banks for profit, but actual written down government law and policy that caused Blacks to live in the ghettos of our cities. Etc., etc.
As a person who is as well-educated and liberal as I am to not know about so much of this is mind-boggling. Obviously, our culture did not want us to know; it preferred that we not talk about it. That it be stored away in our collective unconscious and forgotten about. I am learning about the above and much more from books that are now on the Best Sellers list. Something profound is changing in our American culture that is now open to face how our country has treated blacks throughout our history and especially since World War II.
Wilber recommends that when we find something in our unconscious that is inhibiting our fruitful living, we should use the 3-2-1 process. We should first look at it objectively, from a 3rd person perspective. We should examine it in every way we can. Then we should move on to a second person perspective. Have a conversation with it. Ask it questions and let it talk back to us. Finally, you should acknowledge that it is a part of who we are – see it as a part of ourselves, in the 1st person. When this happens, it no longer has the same power over us, and we become more whole persons. We have cleaned up that part of our unconscious.
The idea that, in America, racism has infected all our institutions including government agencies and the very way we elect democratic leaders is not something we have wanted to acknowledge. Even most liberals have been willing to disown these facts. It is easier that way. Such an understanding of racism has been relegated to our collective unconscious.
With all the demonstrations and their coverage as well as books that have researched our past, I would suggest that we are might see our country as in the first phase of the needed cleanup of the racism in our collective unconscious. We are looking objectively, a 3rd person perspective, at racism in America. Not long ago, The New York Times published some articles on how racism has infiltrated our country under the title: The 1619 Project. 1619 had not been a date I had been taught about in high school or college.
Recently I read How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi and came across the following quote:
Beginning in 1735, Carl Linnaeus locked in the racial hierarchy of humankind in Systema Naturae. He color-coded the races as White, Yellow, Red, and Black. He attached each race to one of the four regions of the world and described their characteristics. The Linnaeus taxonomy became the blueprint that nearly every enlightened race maker followed and that race makers still follow today. And, of course, these were not simply neutral categories, because races were never meant to be neutral categories. Racist power created them for a purpose. Linnaeus positioned Homo sapiens europaeus at the top of the racial hierarchy, making up the most superior character traits. “Vigorous, muscular. Flowing blond hair. Blue eyes. Very smart, inventive. Covered by tight clothing. Ruled by law.” He made up the middling racial character of Homo sapiens asiaticus: “Melancholy, stern. Black hair; dark eyes. Strict, haughty, greedy. Covered by loose garments. Ruled by opinion.” He granted the racial character of Homo sapiens americanus a mixed set of atttributes: “Ill-tempered, impassive. Thick straight black hair; wide nostrils; harsh face; beardless. Stubborn, contented, free. Paints himself with red lines. Ruled by custom.” At the bottom of the racial hierarchy, Linnaeus positioned Homo sapiens afer: “Sluggish, lazy. Black kinky hair. Silky skin. Flat nose. Thick lips. Females with genital flap and elongated breasts. Crafty, slow, careless. Covered by grease. Ruled by caprice.” (Pages 20-21)
The idea of race only came into being with modernism. At the same time as the sciences were being developed and we were beginning to reap the benefits of science, a “scientist” developed the idea of five races. The idea that all people of one color throughout the world – people from very different traditions and cultures - could be grouped together into one race and given particular characteristics was developed as the conclusion of science! I am still trying to come to terms with that. Racism is not an ancient idea originating in our Western, Judeo-Christian history, coming from a time when people were not yet enlightened. Certainly, Christians have searched the scriptures to find support for racist thought and have used the scriptures to justify racist behavior, but they were building on what was presented as a scientific fact.
How do we come to terms with the racism in our collective unconscious? I am doing primarily the 3rd person process. I read a bit or watch a bit of the TV coverage of demonstrators tearing down Civil War statues but then I have to give myself a break. I know I will go back to reading and watching because I cannot ignore it.
I have tried to go on to the 2nd person process of cleaning up – of treating racism as a person and having a conversation, back and forth, with it. Such a conversation I am finding more painful than the 1st person, objective approach. But it is what I will need to do. And American Culture does not seem to want to have that conversation yet.
Finally, there is the 1st person part of the process where we own the racism and accept it as part of who we are. Would it mean owning that all my achievements were accomplished because of white privilege? Would it mean that my beloved liberalism is flawed? Would it mean seeing my own country and its ideas in a different way? What then about our collective unconscious? What kind of a story can we tell about our country that all can accept? What kind of a story is it that acknowledges our racism and yet brings us all together as Americans?
Somehow, we need to take advantage of what is happening in America today to encourage us to clean up our collective unconscious. There are powerful forces that are opposed to doing it. But if we could, we would have a much more fulfilling future as a country than we do now.
BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT SEEN AS CLEANING UP OUR COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS
I am a seventy seven year old female, educated with a BS in nursing, Duke University, and a Masters in Literature, University of Houston. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, but have lived for a good portion of my adult life in Texas, with short periods of time in Louisiana and New Jersey. I appreciate this article about racism, especially coming from another Senior Citizen who is coming to grips with the privileged life of those of us who are white. I too am learning about how I have contributed to racism through my ignorance. My children and grandchildren are helping. My grandson’s best friend is an African American, and has been since third grade. They are both now Seniors in college. They live as brothers now with my daughter and son in law since the death of my grandson’s friend’s mother. I am grateful to becoming more conscious of White Supremacy and how antithetical it is to the evolution of the Beloved Community. But perhaps, as the article suggests, our culture is finally becoming aware and thus enabled to look at it through the three lenses mentioned.
Thank you very much for your kind and insightful response. A younger generation is certainly going to help change our culture and, hopefully, our institutions.
Duane R. Miller
Thank you for your well researched information on the race issues!
I had been wonderingly where this all came from…but I can see how insidious it has become…it seeped into our unevolved consciousness and then brought It underground!
Hopefully as we bring this all to “light” we begin to find it’s lingering influences. The next generations will be the ones to continue the work.
I am 80, but continue to be open to the corrections I need to make in order to contribute to the greater good!
What if we eliminated the boxes that ask one to identify “race” …it is happening for sexual identification.
We are all just human beings belonging to one race.
I’m a 56 year man that happens to be white. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and was raised with diversity. I’ve been an outspoken advocate against bigoetry in all it’s forms my entire adult life. I even stopped speaking to my only brother for years over his expressed prejudices. I even put my self in harms way to protect people who were targets of hatred.
Today I’m frustrated and loosing my patience because I’m constantly having people project their Implicit bias on to me because they assume that because I’m white I must be privileged and racist. Growing up with economic poverty for the later half of my formative years and not having a proper family support system I suffered tremendous traumas and PTSD is something that I’ve been attempting to heal for decades. Does that sound like “white privilege?”
I understand the reasons why people continue to act this way towards me but never the less I’m to the point now that I’m afraid to even reach out to people especially the “woke” ones! Despite the good intent behind all the movements which I’ve supported it’s clear to me that damage is being done by these hyper-sensitive misinterpretations and people like myself that are allies are being pushed away.
I’ve looked at this from an Integral perspective yet I’m human and have feelings as well. I’ve been a progressive since before most of the “woke generation” was born. To be labeled and judged hurts and I’m beginning to loose my patience. It’s emotionally exhausting always having to be so paranoid that something I say is going to set someone off. My words are taken out of context and assumtions fly.
I’ve been saying for years that there’s only one race and a beautiful diversity of people within that one race. Even that statement is viewed as racist today. At this point I just want to pull back, keep my mouth shut, and avoid the woke crowd. That’s a sad statement from a person that’s been considered one of the friendliest people most have known. I’ll give anyone the time of day and like people but just can’t handle this woke crap anymore!!!
Up until a couple of years ago I would say with all sincerity and conviction that I had never consciously done anything racist. I have always sought to be against racism. I could probably still say the same thing. It would have been nice to have some public acknowledgment of that. When it came to American racism, I was part of the solution and not part of the problem.
But then a couple of years ago, as I struggled with white privilege and with police doing their jobs and still killing so many black people, I began to take more seriously my unconscious participation in a culture (lower left quadrant) that had allowed discriminatory practices and did not want to acknowledge its complicity (unconscious collective.) The fact that I had not consciously (upper left quadrant) been racist began to dwindle in importance. Yes, not consciously being racist is important, but at least as important, if not more so, is what is happening in the culture with which I identified and in the society I supported.
It had not occurred to me that I had lived my life on a different playing field than blacks with intelligences similar to mine. Yes, the advances I made as well as the setbacks were made within white controlled institutions. Blacks could not participate in those institutions the same way I and my white cohorts could. Yes, I had heard about red lining, but I thought it was the result of some prejudiced real estate agents and bankers and not required by government laws. And, I had always delighted in the modern, objective way of thinking that has given us so much enlightenment and so many comforts. I had not been willing to acknowledge that there might be a dark side to modernism. It was when I read Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist that I realized that the very idea of race was a modernist idea.
I am now wondering what else I have accepted as true that actually supports discrimination against some group. Yes, I should continue to be consciously against racism but are there other things I could be doing to change the culture and society in which I live?
I am glad that this discussion is out in the open. I think it really is THE discussion to have.
I’m a young 50 year old and was a Child of the 70’s and 80’s. I am well aware of the racism that was standard on the school playground. I still remember at least 10 N-word jokes without really thinking about it 40 years after I said them. And three knee-slapping gay jokes as well.
I was raised as a military dependent and was exposed to a wide range of school environments - including 2 years when the student body was 90% black and 10% white, and a long period living as a working class Haole in Hawaii.
I was raised poor white trash - sometimes in predominantly non-white environments. Yes, I saw whites brutalized in these environments while I became the crazy white boy Dave Chapelle jokes about.
Both I and my non-white friends were well aware of racism and priviledge as far back as I can remember - I being the Spokesperson, as it were, whenever a mixed race group of friends got busted. We all knew I had the biggest chance of getting us off the hook or reducing the punishment, or getting into places with less of a challenge (like Frat parties in Missouri). In college I remember them explaining why you keep your hand on the wheel when you are pulled over, and looking in fear at each other when I yelled at a policeman for hassling us.
As I moved into the workplace and into management I was well aware that the Phillipino janitors and gardeners addressed me as “Boss”, and it had a very different tone than when a Hawaiian calls me “Boss” - the latter more like “Bro” and the former more like playing it safe.
I remember as late as 2021 men, due to my appearance, assuming I would be a MAGA Trumpist and starting white supremacy dialogue . This happened with great frequency when I was a teenager, disappeared for 20 years, and has resurged with a vengeance.
I remember in around the year 2000 raising an eyebrow at the blatant racists subscript that was commonly accepted in films such as Trading Places and 48 Hours.
But I am not WOKE. I’m not ashamed, and do not have white guilt. That’s where I part ways with Green. When I have racist thoughts - I recognize it and try to root out the shadow - but I know the shadows are there. Shame is one of the worst shadows, and it’s unproductive to nurture it. I work with shame as I work with any other shadow.
At the same time, I chose to recognize that reverse racism is not the same as racism, and I have a position of privilege that has benefitted me from birth to this day. The reverse racism I witnessed periodically in my life does not erase my privilege.
In my work with men in the Mankind Project, I understand that the shadows of POC regarding racism is a completely different matter from the shadows of white Americans regarding reverse racism. The shadows a white person has (including white guilt) are in fact shadows to be processed, and also the many shadows of being born non-white have shadows to be processed - just in different ways.
Here is an article by Jon Lemon I ran across today on the topic.
He doesn’t use the term “Collective Unconscious” or “Collective Shadow” but he describes it very well.
I spent junior high and high school living in a section 8 apartment with my adoptive mom that suffered from mental illness and drug addiction and the neighborhood was predominantly latino and gang violence was a daily occurrence. In 6th grade I lived in Honolulu and learned very quickly the darker meaning of Haole boy. These were humbling experiences and it gave me a deeper understanding of what it felt like to be the minority in the culture. That’s why I’ve always been empathetic towards people that were suffering the hatred and bigotry being put upon them.
Even though I lose my patience sometimes I always return to compassion. Being annoyed by people that project their bias on to me is nothing compared to what people have endured throughout history. The fact that I was born into a body that is “white/caucasian” during a period in history in which Western Cultural domination has been happening for 4+ hundred years is “white privilege.” I get that and have been sensitive of that for years. My venting in previous feeds is just letting some steam off after a very difficult encounter in which I was accused of being a racist which even got reported to a company. “How dare they!?” I thought.
Some shadow work would’ve been the best thing to do. I’ve had plenty of occasions throughout the years in which I was quick to judge and was wrong. It’s a human thing. Ultimately, coming to forgiveness is key. It’s a process and sometimes it’s more difficult than others.
Yeah, for myself I find it useful to remember that these kinds of issues are not Off / On, 0% / 100% issues.
Wilber writes in a number of places about using the 3-2-1 process to clean up things in our unconscious that too often direct our responses. I’ve found that helpful. But I don’t recall him talking about cleaning up our collective unconscious. Are there examples of that happening in our history? How do we initiate or participate in movements that seek to clean up our collective stories? What are those items in our “liberal/progressive” culture that need cleaning up?
Enough questions for one post.
The only person (though there may be others) who came up with the idea of a collective shadow is Doshin Roshi. He took the ideas of integral and applied them to Zen and created “Integral Zen”. The idea of the collective shadow is taking the Jungian concept of the collective unconscious and saying just as an individual’s unconscious can have shadows, the collective unconscious can as well.
This is the next big question, I believe. There are hints of directions to go, but I don’t think any definite answers on how to do processes on masses of people. It’s an open book waiting for you to write on.
That’s the fun thing about shadows, lol. You can’t really tell people “you got this shadow”. Shadows have to be recognized by the people who have them. Telling someone they have a shadow tends to drive it deeper. I only partially identify, so I’m hesitant to spell out the shadows for that collective. I can only spell out shadows that I think I might share. With the understanding that this is my shadow - perhaps the desire to rescue rather than assist?
The best I can say is I think the link I posted above from Don Lemon is a good place to go shadow hunting.
First of all, I would thank raybennett for the integralzen.org information as well as the Don Lemon reference. They are both helpful.
Through my attempt to apply to Wilber’s thought to my personal life as well as history and current events (with the help of Keith Witt’s Integral Mindfulness), I have come to think of the unconscious as much broader than Shadow. Shadow is certainly an important part but there are many other things in our unconscious such as habits (both good and bad), biases, stories and teachings that cause an immediate response to any situation before we have a chance to consciously evaluate it. While the immediate response to a situation might be fear or joy, our conscious response (where we evaluate the situation in terms of our values) may tell us we should and want to respond differently.
My collective consciousness (my culture or lower left quadrant) I understand to be the stories, ideas, responses, values of the group(s) I resonate with and expect will respond to any public situation with the values and ideas I have come to accept. If there is a new situation, I listen to those groups before I decide how I want to respond. I read Nicholas Kristof in the NYTimes and expect to agree with what he says. He is part of my culture. What are the unconscious assumptions made by this culture? Are there some that I would like to change if I were conscious of them? Are there some assumptions that I should acknowledge and own?
But it seems to me that there are layers of culture. There is the layer of persons I choose (above), but then there are layers given by the society (lower right quadrant) in which I live. So what are the ideas, values, responses, stories that I participate in by being a citizen of the United States? Are there stories and assumptions at this level that I have accepted (& profited from) that are contrary to my values? How do I help that wider culture deal with those stories and assumptions, acknowledge them, and own them so they no longer unconsciously direct their lives?
It seems to me that are some examples in our history of cleaning up our collective unconscious. There was the movement against slavery that changed the collective unconscious of a lot of citizens that led to the freeing of slaves. In my first post in this series, I believe the Black Lives Matter movement is helping us deal with the racism imbedded in our culture.
Perhaps a different kind of cleaning up of our collective unconscious is how, during my lifetime, our views on tobacco smoking has changed. It was assumed during my youth and college years that smoking tobacco was harmless and made you look hip. We have cleaned up that part of our collective unconscious.
I have more recently been amazed how, for a majority of Americans, our collective attitudes towards homosexual persons have changed.
Anyway, those are the thoughts I have had in response to your post. I look forward to any responses.
Another white person here. I have a mixed background. I’m working class now, but I grew up middle class, even upper middle class in my young adulthood. On the other hand, at the worst point in my life, I was below the poverty line and lost in severe depression with suicidal ideation. I still struggle from the decades of depression and the continuing effects of it. Obviously, being white doesn’t necessarily make life easy.
Yet I’ve never doubted for a moment that I have had massive white privilege for nothing other than skin color, such as not worrying about the police and everyday prejudice. It’s not a matter of guilt and shame. It’s simply a fact that I acknowledge. I don’t care about a woke identity or anything, but I try to be outspoken about such things when the opportunity arises. It has occupied a fair bit of my blog writing, not that I have a massive audience or am in a position to inluence many. I speak out simply because it’s better than remaining silent.
Besides, it isn’t only personal white privilege for it involves the entire society I’m part of. Multiple lines of my family go back to the colonial era. My ancestors include slaveholders, Indian fighters, soldiers on both sides of the Civil War, and no doubt more than a few Klansmen. When my grandparents were children, there were still Indian wars going on. And near my grandmother’s childhood home happened the Tulsa race massacre.
Compared to some of you, I’m relatively younger. I’m a GenXer in my mid 40s. I was born after the Civil Rights movement, desegregation, COINTELPRO against the Black Panthers, and the assassinations of MLK, Fred Hampton, and Malcolm X. I grew up and went to school with non-white kids without thinking anything about it. And people rarely openly talked about racism in my childhood. Yet there was an awareness and in high school English classes we did sometimes read black authors.
What made me hyper-aware was that my family moved to South Carolina when I was a kid. That is where I spent middle school, high school, and some years after that. In the Deep South, everything is ordered according to race and it cannot be ignored, although overlapping with class. After moving back to the Midwest, I remained extremely race conscious and so have been reading about such things for the past quarter century.
I’m not sure what good it does to know that racism exists, but it seems like the least I can do is to recognize it and talk about it. I suppose there is some value in simply processing it within oneself. I notice how racism plays out in myself and in the world around me. I want to understand it because it’s so much more than mere racism for it’s inseparable from an oppressive history of various ethnic, anti-immigrant, non-Protestant, and class bigotries.
I see it all as particularly related to class war. Our society is built on capitalist realism, genocide, stolen land, theft of the commons, environmental destruction, plutocratic cronyism, concentrated wealth, corrupt power, and on and on. Racism is an important part, but in some ways it’s a symbolic way we speak about all the rest tat we still refuse to publicly acknowledge. Pull any single thread and the fraying structure of rationalizations begin to come undone.
Still, racism seems like a good place to start. It touches on so many other issues. And it has captured public imagination. After years obsessing over racism and feeling frustrated about it, it is refreshing to finally have it become part of mainstream awareness. According to polls, the vast majority of Americans now agree with the BLM message that racism is systemic and the police need to be reformed. That understanding didn’t exist a few years ago.
Now I can’t wait for a similar awakening about high inequality. Most Americans already agree that high inequality is bad. And they agree that the level we are at is beyond what should be acceptable. But the problem is few Americans know how bad it is. Most assume inequality is far lower than it actually is. That is because corprooate media and corporatist politicians, in both parties, rarely speak honestly about it. And that has everything to do with how class issues have been racialized.
Thank you for your post. I like very much where you are and what you seek to do. You are confirming that our collective culture is changing by bringing out into the open what has so often been repressed. We can’t expect institutions to change until our culture has changed. I’m hopeful that will happen and result in a more just and inclusive social system.
And, yes, if we can publicly deal with racism, maybe then we can openly deal with other issues such as poverty in all its forms and extreme income inequality.