I admit it. I live in a happy, shiny bubble. People in my reality are kind to each other, help each other out, are in touch with their feelings and “own their shit” (don’t make others responsible for how they feel.) I don’t often connect with people who still have the ability to be offended by the arbitrary, or who judge others without being acutely aware of it and doing their best to change that. The world I live in is full of love, regardless of gender, skin pigmentation, cultural heritage, religion, social standing, sexual orientation, political affiliation, age, body shape or size, or any other piddly ass crap that people can use as an excuse to hate each other. In my world, prejudice does not exist (I know, right?!?!). Every once in a while, however, I do become aware of another reality – the one in which discrimination is very much alive. Today, I’d like to talk about that world (it’s been a little while since I’ve tackled one of these big issues. I figure I’m due). I’d like to offer my point of view, how and why racism and other types of discrimination happen, and discuss some ideas on what we can do about it (individually and collectively).
Warning: I’m going to be using the word “black” in this post, instead of African American. I realize that some people in the U.S. find this offensive (although, interestingly enough, those people seem to be mostly white…), and so I’d like to explain. 1.) Not all black people are in the world are actually African or American (it’s true. You can google it), and 2.) I maintain the opinion that to insinuate that the word “black” is derogatory assumes that there’s something wrong with being black, making that insinuation racist (it would be a bit like me being offended because you’ve pointed out that I’m a woman). But, fair warning, if the language I use causes you to be so distracted that you’ll miss the points I’m making here (which are totally awesome, by the way), you should stop reading now.
What is racism?
For the purpose of this blog post, I’m going to use “racism” as a kind of catch all phrase for discrimination of any kind. The general anatomy of discrimination is basically the same. The main emotion behind those who discriminate is fear. This, incidentally, is also the emotion behind those who are discriminated against, although I won’t be able to address the victim side of this equation today (I can do that in a future blog post). So, without further ado, let’s dissect what makes someone racist.
We aren’t born racist or prejudiced. We aren’t born full of fear and hatred and distrust. These are learned beliefs. Being prejudiced against someone is simply a manifestation of a vibration, the vibration of fear and in a grander sense, powerlessness. There are different degrees of this kind of fear: Ignorance, Scarcity and Powerlessness. Let’s take a look at each in turn:
Racism born of Ignorance
We tend to fear what we don’t know. There are a lot of people who are afraid of black people or gays or Hispanics or Drag Queens because they’ve never met one or been personally exposed to one. They may have seen images on TV (often full of incredibly negative stereotypes, but it’s getting better) or heard stories (hearsay, focusing on isolated negative incidents that have nothing to do with the person’s skin color, background or whatever), which they are not basing their opinion on. We all do this, by the way, before you judge too harshly. Our brains will take whatever bits of information they get, accept them as truth, and will fill in the blanks. If not enough information is available, our minds will still often create a blanket belief. If you’d only ever met one man and he was a giant douchebag, your mind would’ve created the assumption all men are douchebags. Your brain would apply the one bit of information you’d received and create a blanket belief. Even if you consciously decided that you were not going to be prejudiced against men, your brain would still apply this assumption. Upon meeting another man, you’d be wary and more careful than you were the first time, until you’d gathered enough evidence that contradicted your assumption. You can tell your brain not to think something all day long. If it thinks it’s protecting you from danger with a belief, it won’t budge, until you’ve present it with the evidence it needs to come to a different conclusion. So, if you went out and met 3 really nice guys, your brain could now come to the conclusion that not all men are douchebags, and that the man you had previously met just happened to also be a douche. His doucheyness and maleness weren’t connected. Your reaction to men would now change.
There are a lot of people out there who are racist out of ignorance. They’ve never been exposed to an actual black person or homosexual. Their brains have taken tiny bits of evidence and created assumptions. The real problem arises when this kind of belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If your belief is strong enough, your brain will now filter out all contradictory evidence, unless you deliberately choose to look for it. This means that if you go to a party and there are 99 awesome black people there and one asshole who just happens to be black, guess who you’re going to meet?
The Solution to Ignorance: The Individual
This kind of racism is fairly easy to combat: When we discover this kind of prejudice within ourselves, all we need to do is expose ourselves to more evidence, a broader range of experiences – those that will contradict what we currently believe and which support the view we want to adopt. If you’ve grown up in an all-white community and black people make you nervous, don’t sit at home and beat up on yourself for being a horrible person. Go out and make some black friends. Look for awesome people of all colors. Look for the positive role models, for “normal” people who don’t fit those narrow stereotypes. You’ll soon learn that your assumptions were all wrong. Faced with contradictory evidence, your brain will have no choice but to come to a different conclusion. You can’t just tell yourself that black people are ok, you have to show yourself evidence of it. And if you go out looking for that evidence, you’ll find a surplus of it (because the awesome people of this world FAR outnumber the douchebags).
The Solution to Ignorance: Society
While we can’t force other people to give up their prejudices, we can certainly influence each other. First and foremost, if you want to influence others to be less judgmental, heal the judgment within yourself. If you don’t, you won’t do much good (it’s not about telling other people how to be, it’s about being the way you want to be and showing them the way).
I believe that a big part of the solution to ignorance based racism (which, I just want to point out, is the most widespread kind by far) is to offer more positive role models in the media. As I said earlier, this is already happening (isn’t that awesome?!). And yes, I do know that negative stereotypes are still a problem, but let’s focus for just a minute on the fact that more and more sitcoms and dramas are depicting darkly pigmented people and homosexuals as, well, ordinary folks with ordinary problems. For many characters, the fact that they just happen to be black or gay or Hispanic or whatever is secondary, and the issues that this particular individual is going through take center stage. In other words, just because a character is black doesn’t mean that his problems are about being black.
It sounds simplistic, but for a huge number of people, what they see on TV and in Movies and in the media serves as the only evidence their brains have access to. And while I don’t want to push against negative stereotypes (which would perpetuate them!), I do want to encourage more positive depictions of all people (hey, how about a show where people are all genuinely nice to each other, and where douche-y behavior isn’t seen as the norm?)
Racism born of Scarcity
The belief of scarcity, that there’s not enough good crap to go around, is pretty ingrained in our global society. Like all strong beliefs, it’s self-perpetuating. We believe that there’s not enough, we feel like there’s not enough, we look for evidence that there’s not enough, causing us to believe that there’s not enough and round and round and round she goes. We’ve manifested gobs and gobs of evidence that there’s not enough for everyone, and that when one person wins, someone else has to lose.
Those who feel like they’re on the losing end (the 99%) feel a sense of powerlessness. Now, if you’ve been here (on this blog) a while, you’ll know that powerlessness turns to anger, and that this is actually a good thing if allowed to happen unimpeded. Anger feels power-FULL, and can rip you right out of that place where you don’t think you have any control. When the anger isn’t expressed but squashed (as it almost always is, most of us were taught that anger is a thing to be avoided) it builds and begins to look for an outlet – usually a destructive one.
So, there’s Joe Schmoe, who is afraid of losing his job. He doesn’t know who to blame, but his natural tendency to turn his powerlessness into powerfulness causes him to look for someone to blame. Just as an aside, if Joe blamed someone for the scarcity in his head, journaled about it and or went and punched a punching bag while fully allowing his ugly thoughts and reaching for a better feeling, he would move up the Emotional Scale and would eventually no longer be angry. He would move ahead on his journey out of the belief of scarcity. This is not what generally happens, though. Usually, Joe will assume there is nothing he can do about the scarcity (it’s just the way it is), holding on that belief, find someone to blame, get angry at them, not really allow himself to express it constructively, will not reach for a better feeling, and will let the pressure build until he explodes and releases his rage destructively, causing negative consequences like being jailed, which will once again start and perpetuate the cycle of powerlessness.
If Joe has some already present assumptions about some minority, he’ll probably blame them. All societies do this and our rage is generally directed as those who are less fortunate than ourselves. We all blame someone. Often it’s the immigrants, or those who live across the tracks, or those who look even slightly different than we do, those with a different religion, culture, country of heritage, language, skin pigmentation, the people across the street, the other political party, etc., etc., etc.
What’s more, we’ll come up with the most ridiculous reasons to hate each other. This is how you get the argument that gay marriage threatens straight marriage. This argument doesn’t actually make sense to anyone. But neither do our beliefs. Our brains have to come up with an excuse, a reason to justify why we feel the way we do. Those who are feeling threatened will find a way to blame someone for how they feel, whether doing so makes any sense or not. Most people have no idea why they feel the way they do – they’ve never stopped to really analyze it. Digging around in our psyches and facing our fears can be uncomfortable and scary. Shutting our brains down and chanting “Because God said so, so just shut the f*$# up” is a lot easier.
The Solution to Scarcity: The Individual
If you’ve heard yourself argue the point that your (or society’s) problems are caused by a certain people, and you became uncomfortably aware of that, give yourself a pat on the back. I know, the inclination will be to beat up on yourself, but the first step to overcoming judgment is to notice that you have some, so well done! The process of shifting this belief is the same as always: show your mistaken brain some evidence that contradicts your beliefs. For example, if you find yourself ranting about the unemployed slackers who are a drain on the system, ask yourself this: Do you actually know any unemployed slackers like that or are you just parroting something you hear elsewhere? Often we feel personally offended by larger issues, but have no actual experience with them in our own lives. If this is the case, you almost certainly have false assumptions.
For example, in the US, there’s been a strong belief, perpetuated since the 1980′s, that welfare recipients are almost all lazy bastards who are sponging off the system and just refuse to get jobs. The reality is that these kind of leeches are quite rare, relatively speaking. Over 80% of those on food stamps are families with jobs who simply aren’t able to make ends meet. They do not have 2 cars, or flat screen TV’s, and aren’t popping out more children for the assistance money. Do such people exist? Yes. But in much smaller numbers than most people have been led to believe. And yet, it’s just an accepted fact that most people on welfare are lazy bastards who could work but don’t want to, and are living the good life on our dime. Do some research and look up some facts before you rail against an issue. Question your assumptions. Is what you’re railing against actually true?
The fact is that no societal issue can be blamed on a particular group of people. Sure, it’s easier to just blame the brown folks or the poor, but it solves nothing and it feels awful. The problem always comes down to beliefs, and unless we change those, nothing will change (you cannot change a manifestation without changing the vibration that caused it). But again, it takes a bit of work to dig up the real cause of a situation and then line up with REAL solutions.
The Solution to Scarcity: Society
Solving the issue of scarcity in society is not an easy task. Again, spreading evidence that contradicts these beliefs is the key – making it readily available to those who are seeking solutions, even if they’re not consciously aware of it. This is why I share documentaries such as Thrive and the Venus Project. I do my best to offer a different point of view, one that feels better and allows us to actually find solutions. It’s why I’m writing this blog post – if people really begin to think about and dissect their reactions and emotions, there’s a good chance they’ll figure out that their assumptions have been false. They’ll begin the journey towards aligning with Who They Really Are. It’s not about forcing anyone to change, but more about offering and opening up options.
Racism born of Powerlessness
When the scarcity belief is strong enough and the self-perpetuating cycle has continued for long enough, feeding off itself, sometimes for generations, a deep and all-encompassing sense of powerlessness is the result. This is when you get groups of people (almost always groups. It’s easier to feel powerful in a group) beating up and even killing someone just because of their skin color or sexual orientation. The rage that has built up is immense. The solutions to this kind of powerlessness have to be systemic, just like the problem.
No one becomes this powerless on their own. Beliefs of this magnitude are fostered and passed on over generations. Whole communities come together and focus on the negative, on what they don’t want, on the fact that they don’t have enough. It’s never just about one thing, but always a whole snake pit of beliefs – an ugly, intertwined mess of pain and suffering just looking to be released. Generations of poverty and religious or culturally condoned oppression cause this kind of powerlessness. You’ll notice that it’s often the most powerless that lash out against some minority group. That isn’t to say that someone who seems to have more than enough couldn’t be a racist (you cannot see inside someone’s vibration. Powerlessness can lurk in anyone, no matter what it looks like from the outside. There are many who could be considered wealthy who feel poor, for example), but systemic prejudice of the severity that this section is talking about is generally found in the most obviously powerless segments of society.
The Solution to Powerlessness
I seriously doubt that anyone with this strong of a vibration would be reading this blog, but just in case, and as a point of interest to the rest of you, if the mere sight of someone darker than you makes you want to grab a baseball bat, you need to get away from the trigger. While I generally condone looking for contradictory evidence, in this case, I believe that the negative emotional reaction is far too strong to do any kind of really beneficial work. You can’t shift your beliefs while being triggered (this is always true). So, the first step will be to go off somewhere where you can feel safe and do the work there. Because this kind of powerlessness is never about one issue (it may manifest as one issue, but there is never just one underlying cause), the solution here would be to very generally find something, anything that feels better. In this case, “better” would almost certainly be a huge anger release (or twenty). If that anger, however, was released constructively, there would actually be a shift in that person’s emotions, leading to less and less anger, and finally letting them out of the grip of that powerlessness. Most people and especially those in the most impoverished segments of society are never taught to do this, though. In fact, they’re taught to do the exact opposite.
For many people, an anger release is something that leads to jail or prison. It never occurs to them that they don’t have to wait until they have the urge to kill someone or beat someone up or just rob somebody to get the money they want. And so, they avoid this kind of healthy release at all costs. Then, when the fury does finally explode out of them, they often go to prison, where they are locked up, made to feel even more powerless (thus perpetuating the problem) and scrunched together with other angry, negatively focused individuals. This is a recipe for disaster!
The solution has to be about empowerment, messages of hope and optimism (along with evidence that supports them), an overhaul of our prison system (focused on true rehabilitation, returning a feeling of power and control instead of the opposite), an overhaul of our education system, creation of opportunities and opening of doors. This isn’t an easy fix, but I totally believe it’s possible.
The anatomy of a discrimination free bubble
I wanted to offer a little bit of an explanation about this bubble I live in. There are going to be those who misinterpret this bubble as a state of mind where you just ignore the problem – a kind of denial. This would be akin to saying “Well, sure, racism exists, but I’m white and blonde, so what should I care? I’ll just go live in my bubble and pretend that nothing bad ever happens.” This isn’t what I do.
I am aware of the ugliness of the world. I just choose not to focus on it in a way that perpetuates it. When I see something horrific happen, I do my best to try and figure out what this experience has caused me to want instead and line up with it as quickly as possible. When I see someone being racist, for example, it makes me want a world where people connect with each other, and have no need to be afraid or to hate at all. Then, I reach for the feeling of that situation. The more successful I am at achieving and holding that feeling, the more likeminded people I attract into my reality – people who truly do not care about the arbitrary, but see those around them for Who They Really Are. I focus on a world where more and more of us decide to let go of judgment and look for the gift that every single person in our reality has for us. And as we come together, as more of us wake up to what’s truly important (and all the crap that really isn’t), racism and prejudice in all its forms will shrink and fall away until one day, the only place you’ll be able to encounter a racist will be in a museum, right next to Cro-Magnon man and the Neanderthal – a remnant of a distant, less evolved era in our past.