Moving From The Head To the Heart On The Race Issue

By Maxjulian

May 21, 2007

Category: Uncategorized

12 Comments »

More wisdom on racism. My friend, Cecelia, sent me this email. Can you all get to this…

Hi! I’ve been think about the discussion you had going about the term “race”. I could see many very passionate opinions coming up… and it was a wonderful discussion, intellectually.

Here’s my two cents… just to share with you a bit of where I stand on what is obviously a passion for you.

I find the term “race” has many aspects for me. At it’s worst, it is a concept that perpetuates power and control over others. It is one of many, many, words/concepts that do that. (And really, my inclination is to just lump them all together and look for a solution that solves them all… you see as I go along. It just seems like we could move on more quickly that way…) At it’s best, it is a way to celebrate individuality. It is a tool for classification, which is a neutral concept for me. Classification is a way of gathering information… It’s what we do, (or don’t do) with the information that has potential for problems as far as I’m concerned.

The big issue is when it is a source of misuse of power and control. But I equate making the term “race” the issue with our current practice in schools of making “bullies” a problem…

I think nationally, now… we have adopted a zero tolerance policy toward bullies… there are curriculums in which children are taught that bullies are bad. They are taught to identify them, manage them and there may even be a small blip about trying to understand them in some of the more compassionate curriculums. I disagree with this path. Bullies aren’t the issue. The issue is that we as a culture refuse to talk openly about power and control. And for me the cure to this issue is compassion, an embracing of humanness, humanity.

And then the Einstein quote about not being able to solve a problem from the same consciousness comes to mind… only in this case, you can’t solve an issue of the heart, which leads to compassion-less ways of thinking and seeing the world with the intellect. The intellect, on its own, lacks the resources to engage the heart which is where healing could occur.

In general, I think the intellect needs weigh in with heart.

I don’t know that I value finding another way to describe the issues, another word conveying the inequities of having brown skin. We have enough words… and introducing yet another word or phrase diverts energy away from trying to engage the heart. For myself, I wouldn’t use the term racism or the phrase extreme color arousal to convey the profound dis-empowerment, devaluing, inability to be seen as who I am, and lack of connection and compassion that I have experienced when I’ve encountered racism. I try to describe the hopelessness I felt then, but I’d do so from my currently empowered state, not as a victim. I’d trust that if I share my heart, they’d get it on the heart level… and I don’t really care about the intellect… it’ll come on it’s own. But I recognize and respect the power of words… how they deeply color communication… and that’s exactly why I’d tend to avoid racism and extreme color arousal… both are likely to make people more guarded and what I want is an open door to let my experience touch their hearts.

The intellect has it’s rigid shades of black and white… the heart knows gray is really the more common color of Life… there’s an acceptance of both in gray. So there’s not so much to fight against… and then to add more white or more black to the mix is a matter of preference.. but you can understand both. And in that understanding there’s room for power to be shared and the needs of everyone to be met. There’s connection.

The heart knows things the mind never will…

To complete the thought on bullies… I feel the same way about it. Teach children it is natural to want power and control in one’s reality. It is. Do you know anyone that doesn’t want that from birth on up? It’s ok to want that. And teach them how to get it… to look at those needs and find ways to accomplish them without needing power over someone else. Find ways to let children be empowered with at least some choices… and let them explore the idea that there are some choices that can not be taken away, along with ones that can be given and taken away based on their behavior/choices. Teach them compassion and they will become confused at the idea of bullying, it will become naturally repulsive and unthinkable. So many things are non-issues if we ever thought to teach compassion as a priority in living. Racism would be a non-issue if people ever got around to living compassion.

So that’s my two cents… for what it’s worth.

Now, there are those who would view this as pie in the sky. I would say, where does staying grounded in the paradigms we’ve been grandfathered get us? I want to challenge all of us to think Pie-in-the-Sky. After all freedom is Pie-in-the-Sky; should we not think thoughts and feel feelings that will lead us towards a Utopian life? Or should we just stride towards a more comfortable slavery?

Not that we have it but, once upon a time, democracy was a utopian ideal.  If we aren’t proposing an alternative to the madness we’re living, then we are complicit in the madness we are living.  We must go deeper.  As Charles Mingus put it, “You Better Git It in Your Soul.”

12 Responses to “Moving From The Head To the Heart On The Race Issue”

  1. Well said.

    My daughter and I were out for a walk last night, and we talked about spirit and the connectedness of all things, and one of the subjects we touched on was the question: is there a difference between heart & mind, thinking & feeling. For me, Cecelia’s words of wisdom could not come at a better time.

    What frustrates me the most regarding the racism issue, is that whether you approach the issue using your heart, or your mind, it should still come out the same; illogical and wrong. We can say, “so and so needs to stop thinking with their brain, and start feeling with their heart,” but when they do, sometimes, they still get it wrong!

    I look at the way some people choose to live their lives, and I cannot help asking myself, when did the child in them die? Each one of us started out a naive, wide-eyed, innocent, precious little being. We didn’t think anything one way or another. It was all good. The closest I can bring myself to understanding racist behavior, is to assume that the child inside some people must be dead. This is why they cannot feel, why they cannot think with their hearts.

  2. Before we heave the word “racism” into the category of quaint Old English (OE), along with “thee” and “thou”, let’s remember a lesson from Alfred Korzybski’s general semantics: The word is not the thing. It is merely a representative abstraction of the actual phenomenon. Although race may be a figment, it is real inside the minds of some people and, therefore, is a material force upon behavior. Korzybski also points out that we internalize certain feelings associated with the word.

  3. Eddie, I agree that there is a phenomenon happening and that words are used to define various phenomena; I am beginning to believe that the phenmenon and its definition are worthy of reappraisal. I’m beginning to believe that our attachment to the terminology, definition and meaning provided by the oppressor shackles our ability to see beyond the limitations of those words and concepts.

    My friend, Cecelia, says: “The intellect, on its own, lacks the resources to engage the heart which is where healing could occur.” I hear all of our heads chattering about this subject. Yet, this is a heart issue, a soul issue.

    We live in a soul-less, bestial culture, a culture that teaches us to think like the actuaries who created it. Our solutions never solve and our answers never answer, because they never deal with or touch our emotional/spiritual condition.

    We need OUT of this, but our heads can’t take us there.

    They use us for our soul, for our flava, for our “magical negritude.” We know this. But, rather than be a tool they use to spritz on their tan, why can’t we enlist that thing deep in us, the blues, reclaim it from them and create the next movement? Why can’t we back that camera up and get the widest shot we can of the culture and ourselves?

    We talk about these issues like statisticians, like lab coats, like demographers. We’re clinical. We’re CD’s, when its the warmth of vinyl we need.

    And where are our “eyes of a child,” as Dave reminds us?

    We need our eyes of a child.

  4. I am emotionally detached from words, but spiritually connected to people. My church congregation is made up of one-third white, one-third black, and one-third Hispanic, and I know no feelings of distinction in my personal affections between them. This is not an intellectual practice, but a matter of the heart, and in accordance with Jesus commandment to love one another.

    Thank you Freeslave for advocating moving beyond race to our ideal target objective- a more humane society.

  5. The power to change it all, to lead us to utopia, resides in the innocent, inner child, that lives within each and everyone of us. It is that part of us that keeps us hoping, loving, caring, sharing, forgiving, and ultimately, in communion with all life in this universe.

    Unfortunately, it is the part of us that is so often unseen and unheard. It is that naive, inner child that is typically the “first to leave home” when we become educated and grow up, aka, scared, divided, “powerful.”

    Walking in peace and Power with my inner child, I know, will afford me the strength to persevere, in my own small way, in this quest for freedom, equality, and love for every human being.

  6. I agree with Eddie, that “Although race may be a figment, it is real inside the minds of some people and, therefore, is a material force upon behavior. ” And so as we develop new and more accurate ways to describe what we see, we must not forget the wisdom of the knowledge that is passed to us by people such as Franz Fanon, Francis Cress and, yes, Eddie Griffin (BASG)!

    Cecilia said, “should we not think thoughts and feel feelings that will lead us towards a Utopian life? Or should we just stride towards a more comfortable slavery?

    Not that we have it but, once upon a time, democracy was a utopian ideal. If we aren’t proposing an alternative to the madness we’re living, then we are complicit in the madness we are living. We must go deeper.

    That’s what I want to do: “Go deeper.” But I find that certain legacy words – words that everyone acknowledges are biologically false and historically intended to be demeaning – nonetheless make things seems so self-evident that it becomes impossible to go deeper.

    Could we ever have made the advances that we have in neurology while insisting on retaining the word “phrenology” as the basic unit of our scientific understanding?

    I really appreciate the poetry of the words that Cecilia weaves above to encourage us to come at this problem in a feeling, sentient way. She clearly gives of herself linguistically because words are important.

    When I talk about Color-Aroused EMOTION, Ideation and Behavior, this is to encourage us to identify and discuss our emotions. ALL of them. The fear, the hurt, the sadness, the envy, the jealousy, the longing, the love, the hope . . . The word “racism” doesn’t evoke those feelings in me nor does it invite me to explore them. The word “racism” distills all human emotions down to “I am angry at you and you are angry at me.”

    In contrast, “Color-Aroused Emotion” is an invitation to explore all of the emotions that we have about our skin-color and others people’s skin-color – the envy and the anger and everything in between. Let’s abandon the word racism and start talking and sharing with one another about what WE really FEEL!

    This will give us the moral authority to demand that whites move beyond the work of oppression to talk about the FEELINGS that underly the need to oppress others.

    But, we must never be anti-intellectual. How can we can encourage our children to study and increase their vocabularies while discouraging adults from using new concepts to describe their reality? Why do we need literacy at all if not to use language to obtain our freedom?

    Defending the Abolition of the Words “Race” and “Racism” in the Revolutionary Fight Against Color-Aroused Disorder: A Response to Field Negro

  7. Posted at my blog:

    TheFreeSlave said:

    More wisdom on racism. [sic] My friend, Cecelia, sent me this email. Can you all get to this:

    Hi! I’ve been think about the discussion you had going about the term “race”. I could see many very passionate opinions coming up . . . and it was a wonderful discussion, intellectually . . .

    I apologize to TheFreeSlave for putting the “[sic]” after the “R” word, but I realize now that I have not referred to myself or others using the “R” word for a long time. And now, I will no longer use words based on and containing the root of the “R” word, like “racism” and “racist” and “racial.” All of these words that have become staples of our communication are based on a white supremacist biological concept – “R” – that has no basis in scientific reality.

    Of course we need words to describe and denote the very real concepts that were represented by the words “R” and “racism” and “racial” and “racist.” The “R” word is the easiest to replace – with the phrase “the Black people.” It will humanize us to finally refer to ourselves as “people” rather than as anything else.

    The “racism” word can be replaced with “Extreme Color-Aroused Disorder” (ECA), which is the short way to referring to the psychiatric illness of Extreme Color-Aroused Emotion, Ideation and Behavior Disorder. As Cecelia correctly reminds us, we need a greater focus on our feelings and on white people’s underlying feelings. This definition, although longer than the term “racism” has the benefit of explicitly encouraging us to look at, describe and communicate about ALL of the emotions that underly “racism,” instead of just the anger that the “racism” word regularly evokes.

    The word “racial” can be replaced more accurately with the phrase, “color-groups,” and even more accurately with the phrase “perceived color-groups,” since the only thing that really groups beige people from New Guinea with Black people from Chicago is the color-antagonistic mind’s refusal to differentiate between people, other than to say, “They’re all Black! You can’t tell them apart!”

    The word “racist” can be replaced with the phrase “Extremely color-aroused disordered person,” or “ECA disordered person,” (which is quite a bit more insulting, if you think about it). Or “person with ECEIBD. Or “patient with ECEIBD.” Those phrases and terms will serve as a deterrent to public behavior symptomatic of ECA.

    It should be noted that we refer to “hate crimes” in legal statutes, rather than “race” crimes or “racist crimes.” Did the failure to use the word “R” word in those statutes rob us of our sense of self? Of course not! It merely clarified the nature of the crime and thereby increased the likelihood that perpetrators would be convicted.

    Speaking of which, we need a name for people who commit crimes when aroused by skin-color, and those crimes can be based on envy and even love, as well as hate. For them, we have the term Extreme Color-Aroused Perpetrator! One advantage of this willingness to engage in new thought is that it yields a host of catchy and newsworthy new names to call the people who target us for color-aroused abuse. Like “color-aroused abuser.”

  8. i am a proponent of removing the word “race” from our vocabulary, but we must work to remove the word “race” from our consciousness, as well. as long as the concept remains, there will be the opportunity for another word to replace it.

  9. I agree with you, plez. This is not about banning words, but about arriving at a new consciousness where we no longer choose to use false concepts.

  10. Well, I like Cecilia’s sentiment about heart because for me it feels that she wants us to consider the real emotional and psychological impacts of racism. I also like the proposal to redefine racism as Extreme Color Arousal because the subtext of this proposal is that ECA (racism) is a mental disorder, which seems to be supported by progressive mental health practitioners. Thank you for providing a thought-provoking post!

    On a completely different topic, I am compiling a list of the 100 books of African diasporan literature that will transform my life and combat the miseducation I received in the American public school system. I am looking for works by African diasporan authors or books by non-Diasporans that pertain to the historic, political, social, spiritual, cultural, environmental, or economic structures of people and governments throughout the African diaspora. I fully intend to use my knowledge to teach others. So, if you have any recommendations, please leave me a comment here: Diasporan Literature Project. Thank you!

    http://alexispierrelouis.wordpress.com/diasporan-literature-project/

  11. Greetings! I am compiling a list of the 100 books of African diasporan literature that will transform my life and combat the miseducation I received in the American public school system. I am looking for works by African diasporan authors or books by non-Diasporans that pertain to the historic, political, social, spiritual, cultural, environmental, or economic structures of people and governments throughout the African diaspora. I fully intend to use my knowledge to teach others. So, if you have any recommendations, please leave me a comment here: Diasporan Literature Project. Thank you!

    http://alexispierrelouis.wordpress.com/diasporan-literature-project/

  12. I concur that a utopian ideal is the best thing we as humans could strive for. I do; however, feel it is dangerous to put all of our energy into creating a utopian dream to the exclusion of dealing with our day to day issues pro-actively.

    I thought the young lady’s e-mail was inspiring and on point in that it addressed how we rear an age of children to deal with each other on a human level rather than a defined stereotypical level. To that end I think we all have a responsibility to “each on teach one” so to speak.

    I do not think that addresses our current state of affairs. Racial thinking is so ingrained that compassion is an excellent thought and works wonderful on a one to one ration but when you discuss people as a whole compassion does not take into consideration fear. Fear is at the basis of all racist actions. These actions cannot be tolerated and we must call them on the carpet EVERY SINGLE TIME we see it. Saying “show compassion” is fine but sometimes we need to have a little fight in us for those times when compassion is a moot point. Strength and integrity are just as important as compassion. We have to stand up and be counted when racism rears its head. We can’t empathize and let it slide. We have to be willing to “man up” should the situation call for it.

    How do you teach acceptance when fear is so ingrained. I am not sure you can. I think the goal is to allow those open minded enough to recognize the stupidity in race superiority to teach the youth compassion and acceptance therefore phasing out and making obsolete those closed minded individuals who refuse to see our commonalities.

    This is not an easy answer but I think when we as we begin to give our children a more global view of the world narrow mindedness will fade and with it racism.

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