The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Last word, for now, on racism

Because I refuse to address this blog to one group or another, any answers I give concerning racism MUST apply to both the problems in the black and white communities.  They must be generative, not accusatory.  Here goes:

Racism is an outgrowth of natural human protective tendencies dealing with “outgroups” and the perceived scarcity of resources.
This tends to operate at the level of unconscious competence.  You are VERY unlikely to be able to admit to your own level of racism unless you have done deep introspection indeed.
These tendencies tend to decrease with positive interactions with the other group—including positive media images.
Humans tend to hide their pain, fear and guilt, either “stuffing” it in their psyche (obesity, financial or relationship dysfunction) or projecting it onto the “outgroup” (alcoholics screaming about drug addiction.)  “They” are the problem.  Never “us.”  Never “we.”
Historical factors exacerbate the entire problem.
The answer is honesty, personal responsibility, and love. 
Be honest about the fact that we all have these tendencies. The group with the power simply has the ability to turn their tendencies into law and devastating financial advantage. 
Personal responsibility says that you have to rise to your own highest level as a human being, regardless of your obstacles.  The more pressure you are under, the more you must struggle against the natural human tendency to blame others or wait for someone to rescue you.  Unless you are balanced in body, mind, and spirit, don’t blame others for the same flaws you have failed to overcome in yourself.
Love and fear compete for the same space in your heart.  You have a choice: either build a shell, or a spine.  Be a loving warrior: prepared to defend your family, but also to protect and nurture a stranger’s child.  Be strong, and compassionate.  By learning to forgive ourselves, we gain the strength to forgive and accept others.


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