Racism Is a Spiritual Issue
The shooting of unarmed black men by law enforcement officers and lone vigilantes ambushing churches has exposed the lie of a "post-racial" America. The polarization, the violence, and the controversies make it seem there is no turning from our human condition, but there is hope.
Today we see how easily we can go from the appearance of equality among the races to blatant overt racism, causing us to assert clearly that "Black Lives Matter" in a world in which police continue to kill innocent and unarmed black boys and men, and face no consequences. We see it in the racial breakdown of the people who control our institutions: 2016 to 2017 found 90 percent of Congress—white; 96 percent of Governors—white; top military advisers—100 percent white; the nation's top leadership positions, President and vice president—white; the current Presidential cabinet—91 percent white. The people who decide which TV shows we see—93 percent white. The people who decide which books we read—90 percent white. The people who decide our news coverage are 85 percent white, while the people who decide which music is produced are 95 percent white. The teachers in the U.S. are 83 percent white, while full-time college professors are 84 percent white. And finally, owners of men’s pro-football teams are 97 percent white.
Albert Einstein said, "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." That's why we are again confronted with the spiritual disease of racism in America, and we must continue to confront the evil of supremacy and racism that was embedded into the very Constitution of this nation. The freedom expressed in that document was never meant for people of African descent nor tribal nations, and therefore any laws established against racism simply drive the problem underground, creating a shadow that casts its darkness over the country repeatedly whenever the intended purveyors feel threatened. That is the systemic nature of an ideology that promotes the rights of one group over all others.
Psychologist, Carl Jung, wrote "Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is." Racism is America's shadow, and just like the shadows of individuals, America's shadow must be made conscious before it can be managed effectively. Every time we create a law to address racism in our society, in our world, without exposing all of the insidious ways it throws shade over our universe, we simply cast that shadow deeper into systems. Thus, awareness is key. Racism is a spiritual issue, and becoming conscious of its broad casting shadow is not a soft solution. It requires resolve and the willingness to confront parts of oneself--both good and bad--that have not been allowed to dwell in your consciousness.
White race scholar Robyn DiAngelo wrote the following about white supremacy in an article entitled "No, I Won’t Stop Saying “White Supremacy”" in Yes!Magazine on June 30, 2017:
...[W]hen race scholars use the term white supremacy, we do not use it the same way as mainstream culture does. Nor, do we use it to indicate majority-versus-minority relations. Power is not dependent on numbers but on position. We use the term to refer to a socio-political economic system of domination based on racial categories that benefit those defined and perceived as white. This system rests on the historical and current accumulation of structural power that privileges, centralizes, and elevates white people as a group.
These numbers are not a matter of “good people” versus “bad people.” They are a matter of power, control, and dominance by a racial group with a particular self-image, worldview, and set of interests in the position to disseminate that image and worldview and protect those interests across the entire society.
To uncover the systems of white supremacy, to acknowledge our culpability and complicity in it, to find safe space for dialog and healing, and to find a way forward is critical to our overcoming this spiritual darkness, we need a kind of racial awareness that exposes the lie and causes those of good will to examine their souls and to see racism as a spiritual issue, and that it is in order to change our world view, leading also to changed behavior.
This is not a sprint or a marathon. It is a relay race that involves the human condition. Therefore, it will probably take many lifetimes for humans to evolve into the interdependence we are supposed to be. Our hope is that, though not at a pace we may desire, evolution and reformation are indeed in motion. As spiritual directors of color, we can commit ourselves to changing the narrative by working toward our own emotional emancipation from the lie of black inferiority. We can tell our own stories and sit with others to affirm their stories, and give validation to our collective trauma so that we can move from trauma to emotional freedom. We can show the power of the Spirit in our own culture and traditions and rise as one community committed to conscious empowerment.
I end with this quote from Reinhold Niebuhr in his book The Irony of American History:
Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.