The racism debacle is not over yet, and the way things are going it won’t be in the near future – if that is what we choose.
This debacle has one underlying assumption: some people (‘good’ by implication) are the unfortunate victims of other people (‘evil’ by implication). If ‘good’ people in different circumstances or times are now seen as ‘evil’, the result is guilt. This is a universal human phenomenon. Do not most of us see ourselves as ‘good’ and some others as ‘evil’? We saw the effects of this kind of attitude in the Second World War, and in Rwanda, and in quite a few other places.
All over the world there is increasing (e)vilification of whites for what they did in the colonial era. All over the world whites buy in on this story because of guilt. Guilt and anger go together. Based on this guilt many Europeans welcomed the millions of immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East, and now have to deal with the consequences.
“What the ego does then, very cleverly, is set up a cycle of guilt and attack, whereby the more guilty we feel, the greater will be our need to deny it in ourselves and attack someone else for it. But the more we attack someone else, the greater will be our guilt over what we have done, because at some level we will recognize that we have attacked that person falsely. That will only make us feel guilty, and this will keep the whole thing going around and around. It is this cycle of guilt and attack that makes this world go around; it is not love. If anyone tells you that love makes this world go around, then he does not know very much about the ego. Love is of God’s world and it is possible to reflect that love in this world. In this world, however, love has no place. What does have a place is guilt and attack, and it is this dynamic which is so present in our own lives, individually as well as collectively.” Thus spoke Kenneth Wapnick in an introductory talk on A Course in Miracles.
As with so many other things, we now have a “fight against racism.” And so we perpetuate and increase it, because what we fight against, we strengthen.
We now have a situation in South Africa and elsewhere where political correctness is being taken to extremes. We dare not say the ‘wrong’ thing anymore for fear of ‘offending’ others. And the more politically correct we become, the bolder the perceived victims become in attacking ‘racism’.
Does it help? No. On the contrary, it is creating a time bomb. Already there are calls to criminalize ‘racism’, a situation showing great similarity with the increasingly fanatical hatred against the Jews in the Holocaust (and ironically, with a similar hatred now against Palestinians in the Middle East).
What then, is the solution?
Humanization. This was what Mandela did, and which made of him one of the most popular people on earth ever. Any accusation of ‘racism’ is an act of dehumanization: of making another person appear evil in order to make me appear good. Unfortunately the social media, instead of improving communication as is often claimed, often merely exacerbate dehumanization. This is what happens when we try to replace humanity with technology.
When we can truly see each other’s humanity, accusations of ‘racism’ become impossible.
That’s why the highly successful dialogue groups between the ‘rightwing’ Afrikaner Vryheidstigting (Afrikaner Freedom Foundation) and the ANC Youth League we had going in the 1990’s were either concretely or effectively blocked by all political parties. Black and white were discovering each other as human beings. Political power, however, as we see clearly now, is not about reconciliation at all. It needs enemies in order to justify itself.
What does it mean to be human?
In most cases to pretend to be other than you are. From the day we were born we quickly learnt what brought us attention and recognition, and we adapted our behaviour accordingly. Eventually we bought our own stories and started believing that we are who we think we are. And so we became like our parents.
Take ‘racism’, for example. I grew up in a home where Beyers Naude was supported and we had a seven single with Nkosi S’ikelele. That made us quite ‘liberal’. However, my father’s work depended on the government, and as was made very clear to him, if he were to “step out of line”, there would be no more work. Today we have a similar situation again.
And so my father could not be too liberal. Inviting blacks into your home, for example, would simply not do. And our black servants had special tin cups in which they drank their tea. Just little things.
Very few children have the guts to follow their own intuition. We did as our parents and peers and teachers did. And when I was a child you could not speak normally to a black person. You had to make it clear that you were superior. Similarly black children quickly learnt that you treat white people with deference. You call them ‘baas’, which means boss.
What we learn as children goes ‘underground’: much of it becomes unconscious, but the effect it has on our behaviour remains. And so many white people are decidedly ‘racist’, irrespective of how much they deny it. In fact, the very fact that it is unconscious means that they (we) feel absolutely justified in their (our) denial.
Are these people bad? Not at all. Just unconscious. Some of my best friends – very genuine people – act quite ‘racist’ towards black people. I too, catch myself from time to time harbouring ‘racist’ feelings. I have been called a “black man in a white skin” before. Because I have no ‘racist’ feelings? No, because I am in touch with my feelings. The more in touch we are with what we feel, the less our behaviour is determined by denied feelings.
The same, of course, applies to blacks. Many of them still defer to whites and act submissively in their presence. Many of them carry the hatred which they saw in their parents. After all, calling others ‘racists’ is merely a projection of our own ‘racist’ feelings. We were told that blacks have a phenomenal ability to forgive. I would disagree. They had a phenomenal ability to hide what they really felt, because in the Apartheid days that was a survival strategy.
It was as a counselor with the Life Line telephone counseling service that I discovered Carl Rogers and group process. Facilitated group process tends to have three phases:
1. ‘Pseudocommunity’: the ‘normal’ norm of denial and pretence. We try to be nice so that we can all be happy.
2. The expression of negative feelings. The norm breaks down, and some people start expressing what they really feel. At first the group tries hard to suppress it, but then it spreads, and those previously too scared to speak now also start speaking their truth. In many cases complete chaos erupts.
3. True cohesion. This is one of the greatest miracles I have ever witnessed. To the extent that ‘negativity’ is allowed to be expressed in phase two, group members now truly see each other as human beings and experience a deep connectedness. This often results in much greater creativity and productivity.
“It has always seemed strange to me”, said Doc. “The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second”.
Thus wrote John Steinbeck in Cannery Row.
“The things we admire” are expressions of the Love that we are. “The traits we detest” are the expressions of how we think we have to be in order to survive in the world. These traits are the origin of all ‘racism’, hatred, violence and war.
What happens in facilitated group process is that a climate of safety is facilitated in which participants feel free to say what they really feel. When this happens to us in practice, we don’t start expressing the “things we admire”. We inevitably start with the ‘negative’. When that ‘negativity’ is accepted and listened to, however, we feel safe enough to start expressing the “things we admire” in ourselves. The moment anger is expressed wholeheartedly, it loses its power, and often changes into ‘gentler’ forms of ‘negativity’ such as hurt. When this happens, we come ‘closer’ to each other and truly start experiencing our common humanity – and divinity.
I facilitated many groups, and always the same process repeated itself. Elsewhere on my website there are some examples.
“Racism cannot be cured or be debated,” ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said yesterday after an ANC executive meeting. He’s right, and he’s wrong. Our efforts to “cure” and “debate” ‘racism will indeed not work. If we start seeing each other as human beings, however, everything will change.
We don’t need only facilitated groups to interact. We can be our own and each other’s facilitators. All we need to is to be honest with ourselves and get in touch with what we feel. For many of us that seems very difficult.
Are we willing? Or do we choose the inevitable alternative – more violence and war?
Filed under In the Light of Darkness