In these times of racial strife when violence, hate and anger are so visible to us, it is hard to know how to stand up against that heavy tide. I’ve found that many people have thoughts they would like to voice, but are wary of turning their social media presence into a political battlefield. I understand that and respect their wish for privacy. Since I crossed that bridge a while ago, I’m offering my web-presence as a platform for those who wish to have their voices heard without mixing up their personal & professional lives. I’m thankful to H for contributing the following thoughts on the subjects of fear and racism.
You Are Loved
Love is pure because it is born of itself. It is not derivative or conditional; it is not learned; it exists and grows and regenerates itself.
Hate is not pure because it cannot exist on its own. It is a byproduct, a symptom of fear, of feeling threatened and scared. We do not naturally inherit hate because we do not naturally inherit fear. Hate, like fear, is learned.
The point of this distinction is to help diagnose the origin of racism in this country. We are very familiar with the symptoms of racism—prejudice, violence, injustice. These are problems, but not THE problem. The original problem is that people are afraid. This is where the hate begins.
It is deep within our biology to fear the “other.” This clan mindset is primitive and instinctual. It allowed us to band together as social creatures in a dangerous prehistoric world. There was a huge advantage to knowing who was on your team, and who (or what) wasn’t. Us versus them. This is, in part, how we beat off the tigers and the bears for so long, how we built a civilization.
We don’t live in that world anymore, but this clan mindset remains. We’re suffering from our own prehistoric PTSD, the fear that tigers and the bears are waiting to devour us at every turn. Only now, there aren’t tigers and bears; instead, there are our cultures, our circumstances, our own inner demons. To feel safe, we create a place of belonging for ourselves. We look for ways to identify, to distinguish ourselves, to set ourselves apart. Us versus them. It is a convenient, alluring way to organize our experiences, and it satisfies our need to know that we are not alone and therefore not vulnerable. It makes us feel less afraid.
It’s easy to see why racists would fall victim to this addictive and simplistic trope. In sharing a certain skin color, they find easy solidarity, a group with which they belong simply because they look similar. But an identity based solely on appearances is unstable. Appearances are mutable. So racists must go one step farther. In order to protect their identities, and therefore their sense of safety, racists create an opposite, an enemy. They do this by villainizing “the other,” the people who do not look like them.
How sad is it that the world we live in is filled up with people who are so afraid, so confused, that they create enemies in order to uphold their own identities? How delirious are we that we build a legion of adversaries so we can oppose them? Our unwarranted, needless anxiety drives us to create nemeses out of thin air simply so that we can prove ourselves in battle.
This is, in essence, the origin of hate. Hate gives our fear a course of action, a target. Hate is what happens when we WANT to be afraid. Racism is hate. Racism is fear.
But why are we afraid in the first place? Why are we choosing fear? Why are our identities so lost that we attempt to reconstruct them through false enemies?
In dealing with the issue of racism and prejudice in America, we must dig deeper to these underlying problems. They may sound beside the point, but I believe they lie at the heart of all the shootings, the violence, the injustices. There is absolutely no excuse for racism, but by investigating it at the source, we may have a chance of healing ourselves for future generations.
This is where love comes in. Love is fear’s biggest foe, the one and only piece of equipment that can undo a million wrongs. That is why, in times like these, it can’t be said enough: the absolute best thing we can do is spread love. Spreading love means listening. It means being open. It does not mean being passive, but it means that you go out of your way to make people feel safe.
To all people of color, I say the only thing I can, which is, I am with you. I fiercely extend to you my solidarity. You are so very important, you matter, and most importantly, you are loved. I affirm this with you and will continue to do so fervently. You are loved.
Fear is alleviated when we own it, when we face it. When we confront our fear, we are confronting our prejudices and insecurities and hate, and only then can we see that they are not real, they are lies that we have constructed out of habit and instinct and confusion. We see then that love is the only thing that is real, because it is the only thing that is pure. As Dr. King stated, “he who loves at that moment has the key that opens the door to the meaning of ultimate reality. So this morning there is so much that we have to offer to the world.”