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.