RACISM IN AMERICA
Nirvana Reginald Gayle
The recent verdict in the George Zimmerman trial again shows up the great schism in matters of race in America. The outrage at this acquittal, particularly in the African-American community but other communities as well, once again raises the concern around the issue of racism in America. Racism is one of the last great taboos we face as a nation. We like to bury our head in the sand and pretend that it doesn’t exist. Yet in spite of things like a Black President, Oprah and the likes of major icons like Michael Jordan and the late great Michael Jackson, racism is still alive and well in these good ole United States of America.
Racism is as American as apple pie, hot dogs and guns. Our nation was founded and built on racism, as the slave trade was the subjugation of one race by another race to inferior status and cruel treatment. After all, our founding fathers Presidents like Washington & Jefferson had Africans as slaves. So racism is interwoven into the very fabric of who we are as a nation. It is ingrained into our psyche and fabric of our being. It doesn’t just go away because we say it’s terrible and deny any traces of it in our being. It requires work, a national commitment to purging this nasty disease from our consciousness and not just sweeping it under the rug and burying our head in the sand like an ostrich to pretend it’s not there.
It requires people being willing to get out of their own sense of privilege and entitlement to see life through the eyes of another. This is called compassion, the ability to feel the pain and suffering of others and respond with love, support and understanding. It means letting go of our comfort zones and little spaces of denial so the things we don’t want to hear or face won’t disturb our life. This means a deeper surrender to something greater, the Great Spirit of the I AM we call God that binds and connects us all as one. It means thinking before we speak or at least an inward inquiry as to how this might be perceived by another.
For example, I had one of my ministerial colleagues say in reference to Trevon Martin and why Zimmerman had to kill him, that he was not a child, he was a big black man and Zimmerman feared for his life. Totally ignoring that young Martin was a 17 year old child (regardless of his size and color, as if that’s an excuse to kill someone), walking home from the mart where he bought, not stole, some candy and a soda, with a hoody on to protect himself from the rain. This is blaming the victim for the crime committed against them. This is akin to attacking a pretty white girl for being raped because she was pretty and wearing sexy clothes. No thought was ever given to how this sounds or would be taken by folks in a deep state of mourning, hurt and pain. This person was blinded to her own racial subconscious prejudices that tend to automatically make white folks see a big black man as something dangerous. When the actual reality here is that the only dangerous one was the big white guy with a gun who actually killed an innocent boy he was stalking and chasing down when the police told him to stand down.
The insidious nature of racism in the collective racial subconscious of America is so deep that my colleague couldn’t even see where she was off. She never once mentioned how this innocent boy was afraid of someone following him at night. The fear that black folk would inherently have of being followed by a big white guy at night. That in the south in particular, history is rife with a plethora of incidents of black men and boys being murdered and lynched for no apparent reason other than the color of their skin and every black person walking and living in America knows this. In addition, ripe in the psyche of Black Folk is the awareness of how often a white man gets off scot free for brutally murdering a black man or boy. This is an old wound that hasn’t healed and with each new incident it’s like pulling the scab off a fresh as of yet unhealed wound.
I mention this about a colleague because if this is in the collective subconscious of a minister, a profession that is about healing, counseling, comforting tending to the needs of people in pain, then it goes to show how deeply ingrained this disease of racism is in the American psyche. This is a trained professional who in a time of crises could not see past the color of her skin, but instead sided with the abuser who was of her familiar racial makeup and could not see from the perspective of the innocent child who was killed having committed no crime. These are the type of blinders with which racism inflicts us. We have no idea what we are doing or even thinking. This is why Jesus said, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”
One of the basic tenets and core beliefs of New Thought and Religious Science is that God is the center, core and essence of our being. We don’t buy into a theology that says we are the original sinners and thus are basically inherently bad or flawed. We believe, as scripture says in Genesis, that we are created in the image and likeness of God. We believe as it says in Psalms 82:6 that “Ye are gods! Al of you are children of the most high God,” a point that was reiterated by Jesus himself in John 10:34. We believe, as Jesus pointed out in Luke 17:1, that “the kingdom of God is within you.” We believe in the inherent goodness & godliness of everyone! In our cosmology we are not the original sin, quite the contrary, we are the original blessing, because God didn’t create no junk.
I bring this up now as it relates to racism because I ultimately believe that racism is a result of us not having a clue as to who we really are. We think we are separate human beings, defined by race, sex, nationality, religion and all the other subdivisions we have concocted to divide us from and fear one another. When in truth, we are spiritual beings having a human experience. In truth we are one, inseparable from one another and God. We know not who we really are. So in the limited, puny, narrow identity in which we have defined ourselves, we actually think those who are different from us are our enemies of whom we need be afraid. We actually forget what scripture tells us, “ if God be for me, of whom need I be afraid,” or “If God is with me, who or what can be against me.” When you suffer from a fundamental belief in your unworthiness in the sight of God, it becomes almost impossible to transcend that core belief that God couldn’t possibly be with you since you are flawed with the unworthiness of being the original sin.
Our work is in bringing folk into the greater awareness of their full-fledged divinity. To be reminded that we are all kin under the skin. That God created all of us in its image and likeness and were given dominion (which actually has the root words of Dom meaning with and inion meaning union, so dominion actually means to rule in union with one another, the earth and all it’s inhabitants, but that’s another story). So our greater work in the healing of racism in America is really about raising consciousness about our true identity as god-beings and even specifically address that this also means where race is concerned. It means developing greater compassion to see that we’re all one, and that our differences are what make us the beautiful rainbow of God, to move beyond the walls of our artificial comfort zones and boundaries to rest in our essential union as the gods we were ordained to be.
This must be diligent work. It doesn’t just happen because we want it or wish it to. Our is not a wishful thinking theology. We are affirmative thinking, meaning we affirm our true identity as god-beings, inseparably one with all of life, creation and God. This practice must extend to every area of our life, meaning that in those areas where we are particularly afraid or feeling separation, we affirm this truth, meditate on this truth, pray on this truth and take action to do thinks that help us demonstrate this truth. Where racism is concerned it means that we not only meditate, contemplate, pray and think on this, but that we also take kind action to fully engage and do something good and positive with/for someone of the race with which we find ourselves in fear or misunderstanding.
I am reminded of a story told on the Oprah show many moons ago where a white woman was recalling her reaction to the OJ Simpson verdict and she just unconsciously blurted out “they let that n___ go!” When she came to her senses and realized she had used the “N” word she was appalled that such a level of unconscious racism existed inside of her. She immediately called her dear friend Maya Angelou, confessed what had happened, asked her forgiveness and asked, “Can you help me get through and purge this racism from me.” To which Ms. Angelou respond by saying something like “of course I will baby, I love you.” This is an example of the kind of radical self honesty and work we must be willing to do if we are to heal the spectra of racism in America and dance in the glory of the great intention God ordained for this great nation to truly be the melting pot and the Land of the I AM!