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Race, Domination, Responsibility

03/21/2016

‘Race’ is a set of boxes,

of differences

that are arbitrary,

made up.

The boxes accomplish

one thing:

to hurtfully divide.

Where does the concept

of race come from?

From the need to justify

the domination

of others –

the subjugated –

at a certain time,

in a certain place,

in a certain way.

Other boxes

have been used before

to justify domination

(and still are,

like tribe and religion)

and new ones

may be used

in the future.

In our place and time,

race as a driving concept

thrives.

Many angry, fearful ones

are still in its thrall,

reduced to a mix

of coded expressions

barbaric actions,

and studied ignorings,

indulging in a last ditch

scapegoating

that hides more deeply held

disaffections of class and belief –

and, more fundamentally,

obscures our deep sense

of insecurity, incompletion,

loss and lack of control –

powerlessness shot through

with a desperate and dire need

to compare and judge

and place ourselves

above and against.

Yes, power uses race

to create the divisions

necessary

to keep power –

by offering up to the powerless

a group even more powerless,

a group even more undeserving –

because, by a sleight of hand

that hides the culpability

of those in power –

it’s a group blamed for

what’s wrong, unfair,

unequal and dangerous

in the world.

A demonized group

under us.

In fact, the real danger

is to power:

that the disenfranchised

of all kinds

may realize kinship.

The effort to stop this

coming together

seems bolder now.

It’s simply money,

concentrations of money,

employing

the weapons of all sorts –

guns, influence, media –

that money can buy.

And what will

vitiate

the use of race,

the fear of race,

and the hold

of old, divisive conventions

and all other such justifications

of inequality?

What will heal

hierarchical divisions,

not only based upon existing

economic, educational,

health and social privileges,

but in the future

upon tailored genetic make-ups

and AI supports available

only to favored groups?

Doesn’t our transformation

lie in the dissipation

of greed, envy, selfishness

and ignorance

(of others’ humanity)

through the resolute realization

and expression

of our fundamental

interbeing?

To this end,

a threshold question:

does scapegoating

mitigate our fearful lack

or compound it?

That is,

what if you refused

to have an enemy,

what if you refused

to despise?

More:

what if in all honesty

you investigated

not only why others

look down on certain people

in certain ways,

but why you do?

That recognition,

that investigation,

that resolve

to admit you do it too

and to take responsibility

for how you function

and for change,

that open-ended learning,

isn’t that the gateway

to what we share,

to our kinship,

to the ending

of us-v-them

in all

its insidious forms?

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4 Comments
  1. A very important statement in today’s world, still in today’s world. It really makes you wonder why the mankind never learns… I myself find explanation in Alice Miller’s thinking and can highly recommend her book Am Anfang war Erziehung/For Your Own Good/Alussa oli kasvatus (1980), where she establishes the concept of poisonous (or black) pedagogy and states, at least to my mind, that the horrifc contempt towards the other — the weak, the small, the somehow different — derives from the need to project onto others one’s own feelings of inferiority. If those are very deep-rooted, it may not be easy to end that devastating ‘us versus them’ thinking you mention. What do you think?

    • Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful comment, Taija. More posts coming on this (and there are previous ones too), but the matter may be with how a fixed and isolated self develops, functioning (or dys-functioning) as if it can stand apart and control the fluxing flow of things (of which it itself is in fact enmeshed). This also involves dividing oneself into both controlling subject and object to be ‘fixed’) – leading inevitably to feelings of superiority and inferiority, and to an endless game of catch-up. Scapegoating seems, as Alice Miller posits, to be based on displacing feelings of inferiority onto others so as to gain a sense of power. But the more fundamental issue to my mind is the root delusion of a fixed and separate self that initiates this.

  2. Jenny permalink

    ”Shurgard stores offer all kinds of moving boxes and other packing supplies like bubble wrap and tape. Everything you need to protect your belongings” (shurgard website)

    Let’s rephrase…

    ”We offer all king of boxes and labels and packing supplies like, greed, envy, selfishness and ignorance Everything you need to protect this ‘you’ you think you are”

    This is a profound post Martin Appletree, thanks.

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