We had a recent discussion of the “Magical Negro” film trope, most specifically a movie like “The Green Mile” where a solitary black character with supernatural powers exists only to enlighten white characters. “Bruce Almighty”, “Bagger Vance” and most egregiously “The Green Mile” are examples of this. There are no reverse instances that I know of. I’ve seen countless examples of this unfortunate pattern, and believe it represents both a simultaneous dehumanization and idealization, a way for white audiences and artists to deal with their fear and guilt of The Other. The conversation went around and around, and one black reader offered the following thought that I believe should be parsed in the light of the “Five Fold Path” to healing I’ve been speaking of. Although this was specifically about race, it shouldn’t take much to adapt it to any other cause or injustice you wish to address in life. The name of the poster has been removed, but if the poster wishes to identify themselves, that is their choice.
“Steven, I’ve given your post a lot of thought. My response is really too big to fit into a FB comment box. To put it simply, I seldom see White people who are really invested in combating the racist foundations of this country. I see people who TALK about it, but those discussions often lack integrity. They don’t have a dog in this fight, and ultimately their fragility becomes more important than the wellbeing of our children. There are exceptions to this, of course. Hardly enough people to constitute a critical mass. I watch your wall. I see your approach. It’s not something that I am capable of. At a certain point, it’s unhealthy to prioritize someone else’s fragility above my own emotional wellbeing. Honestly, they want a magical negro to remove racism from their hearts without hurting their feelings. That’s a sword that I will not fall on.”
I think you may have misunderstood me. In fact, if you think I suggest that you “prioritize someone else’s fragility” above your own emotional well-being, I KNOW you have. Please note the pattern of healing:
- Love yourself. Which included protecting yourself. Only then
- Expand your sense of self to include others. At least one person, as it is simply not possible to move forward in life without the aid and cooperation of others, especially a Significant Other to form the basis of your mastermind.
- Understand the flow of history without guilt, blame, or shame. If you don’t really love yourself, you will not be able to do this. But to see how all human actions stem from universal emergent qualities we can see all over the world, through all history, is sobering and enlightening. Human beings are both wonderful and driven by fear and greed. We are our own best allies and worst enemies. If you can forgive yourself, you can forgive the rest of us as well. That does NOT mean allowing people to hurt or wrong you.
- Find your tribe. Avoid the “Sleeping” and shun or deal with the Monsters.
- Succeed. Massively, if possible. In balance, in alignment with both your childhood dreams and ultimate values. Let your light shine: illegitimi non carborundum, mock-Latin for “don’t let the bastards grind you down.”
Following this pattern, you would never, EVER put another person’s welfare above your own. It might or might not look like that to someone else, but that’s irrelevant. With this pattern, I can look at your very honest paragraph and break it down:
- “To put it simply, I seldom see White people who are really invested in combating the racist foundations of this country. I see people who TALK about it, but those discussions often lack integrity. They don’t have a dog in this fight, and ultimately their fragility becomes more important than the wellbeing of our children.”–Human beings are rarely invested in other people’s interests. They do what they do for THEIR reasons, not yours. As you do things for YOUR reasons, not theirs. There are so many “isms” or positions–racism, sexism, homophobia, speciesism (expressed, perhaps, in the urge to avoid eating meat), nationalism, ageism, etc. We all have advantages in some arenas, disadvantages in others. It is impossible to be aware of all of them, or to care equally about all of them. It would drive you insane and paralyze you, like someone who wishes to avoid killing ANYTHING. “Eat only fruit, walk only on rocks”. Yeah, and don’t breathe lest you inhale and kill innocent little microorganisms. But don’t die, lest the flora and fauna within your body suffer…oh, it’s ultimately absurd. So your comments can be expressed as “human beings are rarely invested in solving problems that are not theirs.” You and I and everyone else fall into this category, and you have to get past it to understand humanity, and human history, and our own lives and actions without guilt, blame, or shame (principle #3)
- “Hardly enough people to constitute a critical mass.” The truth is that it takes a small group of aligned, committed human beings to sway a crowd. All you have to do is be able to sincerely speak to their self-interest. Do YOU believe that moving away from racism is good for everyone? I certainly believe that about, say, sexism, and I’m not in the slightest guilty about being male. If you believe that racism is a blight on the human race, then although it has hurt the victims the worst, it damages the perpetrators as well. If you believe that racism is GOOD for the perpetrators…then I think you’ve not gone deeply enough into principle #2–extending your definition of “self” to include others. Which, of course, is based upon principle #1–loving yourself. Until you do, you will never find that spark of divinity within you, and will fall into the illusion of essential sin and corruption that warps so many lives.
- “At a certain point, it’s unhealthy to prioritize someone else’s fragility above my own emotional wellbeing.” It is ALWAYS unhealthy to do this. Love yourself as you would your own most beloved child. Would you prioritize the needs of an abusive adult to abuse your daughter above your daughter’s need to be safe? I thought not. So principle #1. You must love yourself enough to evoke a spirit of protectiveness. But ANY anger you feel toward the world is based in fear, and fear implies a lack of faith to protect yourself. So you MUST start there, and go deeply enough to know that you will do WHATEVER IT TAKES to defend your spirit, your essence, with integrity. Period. No compromise. You will either protect your essence, or take an aggressor with you into death. You will NOT be abused, or used. But…once you have gone deeply enough to do this (and starting now, give yourself at least a year to master this. But many have accomplished this in a single day’s contemplation of mortality) you can move on to step #2–safely beginning to see how other people connect to you, how we are one soul looking out through many eyes. Do NOT fall into the thought patterns of your adversary! THEY cannot see your humanity. If YOU can see theirs, you are ahead of the game. You understand them, and they do not understand you. Keep your emotional balance, and you will win any confrontation.
- “Honestly, they want a magical negro to remove racism from their hearts without hurting their feelings. That’s a sword that I will not fall on.” And I’m not asking you to. They want, in other words, to remain asleep, to believe you are “other” in a way that comforts them. They have not gone through step #1, or #2, now have they? And you? You follow step #4–avoid the sleeping, but grasp that they are locked in a nightmare of separation from the divine, and from the rest of humanity. If you can find ONE person to Mastermind with, you are hugely ahead of the game. In fact, you have found Tribe right here, if you accept these principles. If not, you MUST have unity within yourself, so that you know you can protect your integrity, and are willing to do Whatever It Takes to do so with love AND strength. You must start there. Avoid the sleeping and deal with the monsters (if they cannot be avoided…but the truth is that if you are ready to die and they are not, they will avoid YOU.)
- Don’t “fall on your sword” at all. Succeed. Thrive. Begin with loving yourself enough to commit to your own life, and let NO ONE define you as less than the stars. Ever.
I hope that this helps explain my position a little better. And I wish you well. I also hope that others reading this can see how these principles apply to ANY “ism” or cause, regardless of politics, requiring only the philosophy that we are as human beings connected in a web, and that only fear and lack of faith separates us. Even if you never find a partner (step #2) you get to live your life in happiness, health, and success on your own terms, because you BEGIN with the sense of love and fulfillment that most people feel they can only have at the end. To begin this process, I suggest “Heartbeat meditation,” journaling and contemplation of the child self within.
If you, or anyone else, have any questions about any of this, I am totally open to the conversation.