There are vast amounts of human energy trapped in dysfunctional relationships. Energies that can be put to good use and so ease the burden of pain we live with. Energies which can be channeled constructively to improve our lot and pave the way for those who come after us.
In the mind of the racist lives the desire to seek advantage. To get ahead. Just as it lives in the minds of those who are not racist. We need such impetus to move forward, to battle whatever our circumstances and push ahead.
It is tempting to wish to narrow the field we compete against by devaluing others.
Say that, since times past, people with the color Orange had been assigned a certain minus (-) value, for whatever reason.
When we inherit that notion, and choose not to challenge it, then it is easy to attempt to exclude Orange people from our interactions.
This exclusion, however, carries consequences. The implicit devaluing means we will not benefit from whatever gifts nature has given them.
I use Orange to designate anyone – non white – now comprising nearly 90% of people on earth.
Our history offers some telling examples of how devaluing people suppresses energies.
At the outset of the Civil War there were clear differences in the strengths of the economies of the North and the South, the economy of the North being the stronger. Racism lived in both the North and the South but in the South it was overwhelming. African Americans escaped from the South to the North, not the other way around. In other words, the relative freedom of African Americans in the North contributed to the greater wealth of that section of the country.
In time, their power and strength would be marshaled into the Army and they would go on to play a decisive role in the victory over the South. Without them, victory would not have been possible.
Sadly, after the war, in one of the most shameful periods in our history, prejudice prevailed, and the country would go on to endure racial repression in forms overt and covert until this day.
Now think of how much farther ahead we would be today as a nation if we had confronted our prejudices?
In today’s world, it is Asian families that are the richest (2018 figures). Do we take on that challenge? Do we set out to release the energies trapped in our dysfunctional race relations?
We are proud to say that we live in a country where the rule of law and self determination prevail but, in fact, they are constantly undermined. The already advantaged continue to find ways to persuade others to give them even more advantages and so, with growing inequality of opportunity, the differences in wealth, level of education and health keep increasing.
The population of our prisons is a stark reminder of all that we have been doing wrong. Step into one and you see masses of African Americans and Latinos – whites being the minority.
What happened? Why are African Americans and Latinos so disproportionately represented in our prisons?
Why did they so disproportionately violate the law?
The answer is so clear that it is hard to accept.
Had they had the same opportunities you and I had they wouldn’t be there.
But clear as the answer is, we struggle to embrace it.
Every race has the same potential for development as any other race. That one group gained an initial advantage, was an accident of history.
When we take in that notion, then we open our minds to allowing for the development of others, even as we strive to maximize our own.
We will see the other who is troubled as someone who needs help to connect with their strengths and build on them.
Look a little closer still and we see something surprising. We see ourselves in them.
We do because they are us.
Us without the benefit of the advantage.
Us without the benefit of affordable housing.
Us but for the burden of poverty.
Us but for the drag of inferior schooling.
Us except for police brutality.
Us except for the chance to develop what abilities we have.
Yes. All of that.
Lots of work has been done to close the gap between the development of white and Black people in America, but we must speed up the pace.
To do that we have to stay open.
To stay open we have to talk.
Talk without blaming,
Talk without hating,
Seeking to understand,
And using our imagination,
To accept and forgive,
Perchance even to embrace the Orange people,
The Orange people that is us.
Oscar Valdes is the author of Psychiatrist for A Nation. Available on Amazon.