I have been asked many times to write a book on my thoughts on race and culture in America. I may be ready to do it, but need your help.
Four nights ago, I woke up from a dream of swimming across a river of oil and tar, climbing out on the far shore and feeling it slough off. My first thoughts were that it represented a version of yoga’s halahala, the ocean of poisoned milk arising from our own misperceptions and egos and twisted drives, writ upon our national racial malaise. That sixty years of chewing it over (starting at the age of six, when I was placed into a racially determined “slow” reading group in first grade) had given me an insight, a way of approaching things that might bear fruit. I have a thought, something that might work, standing upon the work of many former generations. It is just possible.
My first task, however, is to test my idea. To see if it holds water. So I sincerely ask your help. There will be several basic principles designed to explain the past, clarify the present, and move us toward a positive future. Openly acknowledged assumption: no answer that cannot do all of these can be true.
One of the principles, as you could probably guess, is: ASSUMPTION #1: RACIAL GROUP WISE, PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE. IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO POSIT SUPERIORITY OR INFERIORITY ON EITHER SIDE (blacks not as mentally capable, whites not as morally strong, for instance) TO UNDERSTAND OUR HISTORY, OUR CURRENT SITUATION, OR THE WAY AHEAD.
None. Zero. Nada. All of the guilt, fear, violence, damage, dysfunction, cruelty–all of it can be understood as emergent aspects of basic human behavior. No weasel words, no withholding, no private reservations about the notion. No Jeffersonian “equal under the law” or Christian “equal in the eyes of God” while smiling politely and privately thinking “well, yes, but…”
Here’s the trick: you cannot come to a totally logical, factual conclusion because, ultimately, it is a matter of faith, of your personal sense of essence versus existence, “what is Man that Thou art mindful of him”, nature in a swirling Helix dance with nurture. No ultimate statement about these can really be proven. Ultimately, there is faith involved, and I suggest that we need to take a position one way or another, or that ONLY those willing and able to take a position can be a part of this solution…even if it requires that leap of faith.
IF I am right, that almost sixty years, at least ten thousand hours of contemplation and study can cut the Gordian Knot of face in America…well, the potential is breathtaking. It hardly seems appropriate even to hope. What monstrous ego on y part is necessary even to dream of such a thing? And yet…what if it is true?
The only sane and loving and responsible thing to do is to put the idea out, and allow others to judge.
How we got here, all the ugly history, all the ugly current statistics and headlines, and the way ahead. And if this is true, then in combination with a small number of other assumptions, America’s future is bright, and we can move forward with power and intention.
This must be tested, and since I don’t have billions of dollars, countless minions and unlimited power, I believe my notion can best be tested with a series of thought experiments. I ask you to challenge me by answering this question: What of our history or current events cannot be explained without recourse to belief in inferiority on either side? My task will NOT be to convince YOU, but rather than to see if my answers are consistent with the basic idea, in the opinion of enough people to form a coalition. I believe it is. I will never, ever get 100% agreement but luckily, that is not necessary: 51% will do the job (you can guess that that notion is another basic piece of the puzzle).
So…challenges, please. And this time, for this occasion, those who have been asked not to comment on race if they do not believe in equality MAY chime in. It is just possible that your challenging questions will be immensely valuable.