Replacing Racism | Unlocking the Heart (and Mind)

Replacing Racism, Unlocking the Heart (and Mind).

I started to write about racism several times before, motivated each time by some sad, horrific, race-creed-religion-motivated hate crime, police brutality, act-of-war, or terrorism. However, the posts remained in my drafts, unpublished, because each time, the horrific event that inspired me to write, was too quickly followed by another, then another, then many more, in my own country and around the world.  It was impossible for me to finish processing and writing about one event, before I was forced to deal with, and feel my way through yet another new atrocity, in a relentless, inexorable flow of atrocities.

But, after this last nightmarish week in America, a week in which we witnessed the murders of two innocent men by police in Louisiana (Alton Sterling) and Minnesota (Philando Castile), followed by the murders of five innocent police officers (and wounding of 7-10+ more) in Dallas, I had to express my views, add my voice to the outcry, and join the discourse that’s going on. RTGB2259As I read many articles and posts about these deaths, related events, emotional rants, anger, sadness, and proposed solutions from people of ALL races, backgrounds, beliefs and points-of-view, two main things gelled in my mind: (1) what racism is (and isn’t), and (2) that it needs to be somehow driven out of the hearts of those who are racist. Here are my views of racism, a working definition of it, some ideas about how to unlock the hearts of racists, and what might replace the racism in their hearts…

My Background & POV:
 to frame my words and thoughts, you should know my perspective, and where I come from. I am a White, Anglo-Saxon, of Protestant (non-practicing) religious background — yes, you guessed it — I’m a WASP! Russ Murray / Russell E. Murray / White Guy / Ginger HairI am also a blue-eyed redhead person, which is the rarest genetic combination on the planet (look it up, it’s true!), which makes me a virtual “micro-minority” within the shrinking white majority of my country. Born in 1961, I was nearly seven years old when Martin Luther King was assassinated, raised by my father and German stepmother to be unprejudiced, and ferociously anti-racism. Throughout my life, most of my friends have been black, while most of my neighbors, co-workers, and employees have been white. Numerous times in my life, I have been the only white person at parties, church gatherings, and weddings of friends. I have continually seen, experienced, and felt pain on behalf of my friends who were the targets and victims of racism, argued often with, and fought (physically) many times with racists who abused my non-white friends.

Also, you should know that, unlike many who profess to be (and may in fact be) non-racist, who often try to ignore, and claim to not see or acknowledge the differences between peoples, I LOVE and celebrate our racial, cultural, and spiritual differences! I know, I know, we’re all people, all humans, our differences shouldn’t matter, and all that, but…I actually revel in, enjoy learning about, love to discuss, and explore the differences in and between us all! Our differences — including our appearance, our culture, and beliefs — are key to our uniqueness, our individuality, and our life experiences, including how those who are/were different from us, reacted to us over time.

Like many other (naive?) non-racist white people, I thought racism had decreased somewhat since my childhood in the 60’s, because I heard and saw less of it over the years, but now I suspect it never really went away, just went into hiding (where I couldn’t see it) for a while…

As I felt my way through the events of last week, these words formed in my mind, initially as a short poem, which kept changing as I tried to make sense of it all:

“Racism is fear.
Fear is ignorance.
Ignorance is a lack of  knowledge.
Knowledge is power.
Power is peace.
Peace is love.
Love is good.”

These simple words and ideas, became the basis for the rest of my writing below…

What Creates & Feeds Racism?

Racism comes from a sense of self, and value, based on comfort with only people like yourself. Racism is ignorance, fear of the unknown, discomfort with unfamiliar people, those who are different. Racism is a feeling of power and superiority over others, based on the FALSE “knowledge” — what you’ve been told by others like you, or believe due to a lack of experience with people unlike you — that people like you are somehow better, and your lives are worth more than those of people who are different from you. Racism is a way of thinking, feeling, and reacting, based on not knowing how else to think feel and react.

Being ignorant, not knowing, can only be changed and replaced by knowledge and knowing. Knowledge comes from learning, and knowing comes from experience. So the only things which can change and replace racism, are learning and experience. Learning and experience take effort over time, which requires ongoing, lifelong commitment and investment in something outside yourself, a higher purpose than self, the greater good.

How do we learn about and experience more of others, those who are different from ourselves, who are unlike us? It happens easily and naturally if you are fortunate enough to live or work in a diverse, multi-racial, multicultural environment (as I was, from preschool, through high-school). It’s not so easy or natural if your neighborhood, school, or workplace was/is homogeneous, with little or no diversity, populated by people who mostly look/think like, and/or believe what you do.

One big lesson we learn as we experience life with an open mind and heart, is that there are good and bad people in every culture, of every skin color, of every religious and political belief, but we are all part of one human race. Science tells us that all our seemingly vast — visual, physical, skin-deep — differences actually comprise less than 1% of bio- and genetic-diversity between ALL humans on the planet today! Therefore, we are virtually the same, which makes racism actually a form of self-hatred. To hate your self and your own race is…well…illogical, self-destructive, and potentially harmful to others, to say the least. Racism and self-hate indicate a lack of respect for human life (yours and others), and may be evidence of other emotional and/or psychological conditions, for which treatment and counseling should be sought. Therefore, racism, self-hate, and lack of respect for human life may also be reasonable reasons for racist individuals (dare I say it?) to be denied access to guns, to protect themselves (suicide), and others (murder). But this rant of mine today is not about guns (I’m a pro-gun/pro-gun-control, liberal Democrat, and that’s another rant), it’s about racism, and how to replace it…

Unlocking the Heart (and Mind)

Racism is a fear of the unknown, but it is more than that. Anyone who can only feel good about themselves by saying bad things about others, to raise themselves up by putting others down, to feel strong by hurting others, is a bully. And we all know a bully is actually weak, insecure and afraid, lashing out and creating fear in others, in order to create a false sense of strength and power in themselves. A bully has no self-love, no self-respect, and is therefore incapable of love or respect of others. Choosing whom to pick on, whom to hate, whom to demean, and whom to think of as less-than-worthy, as less human than you, is what a bully must do to feel better about themselves.

The easiest way for the racist bully to select a target for hatred, at which to fire fear and shoot ignorance, is to pick on those who are different, and unfamiliar, unlike themselves. The bully picks on those who are smaller, weaker, who don’t stand up for themselves, don’t push back, resist, or defend themselves. The racist picks on and hates those who look, act, or believe differently. The bully, and the racist like easy targets, until the day one or more victims of bullying or hate push back, resist, join together with other victims and good people! That’s when the bully starts crying and runs away, when the racists’ delusions of grandeur, of superiority, crash down on them. It’s an opportunity for the bully/racist to change, to learn and grow, or (more often) to hide for a while, for hatred to fester, seethe, and grow again, until it finds a new expression, new (or the same) targets.

Replacing Racism | Unlocking the Heart (and Mind)Yes, racists are bullies; ignorant, weak, insecure, and afraid. Racism is an ugly expression of low self-esteem, a fear of failure, an emotional act of desperation. Minds and hearts filled with fear, desperation, and hate, have no room for learning, understanding, respect, or love. A closed mind and locked heart keep the ignorance and hate inside. An open mind and heart let in knowledge and experience. Fear and hate cannot coexist with knowledge and love. One pushes out and replaces the other.

Replacing Racism With What, and How?

Racism is a mindset of fear and hate, growing out of inability to love oneself, or others. Therefore the only way to make racism lessen, or go away, is to replace it with its opposite. Fear-hate must be pushed out of the minds-hearts of racists by knowledge-experience. A racist cannot say, “I will stop being racist” unless they also say, “I will begin to love!” Racism cannot just leave on its own — creating a vacuum, an empty space — it must be asked, or forced to leave by knowledge and experience.  Hate won’t leave the room, until love enters it.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described the fundamental, humanist, peaceful solution to racism, in his brilliant, insightful way:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King - Hate cannot drive out Hate, only Love can do that.

Last week, in response to the seven murders, I saw friends and acquaintances posting about Dr. King’s words, and many who responded by saying we must “love the haters” to stop racism. At first, numbly, reflexively, I agreed. Then I thought more carefully, consciously about it, and was troubled by my suspicion, that to “love” hateful people, in a manner akin to God’s purportedly perfect, unconditional love for all of us, is impossible for mere mortals! And, simply loving the haters, would likely not produce the desired result of driving out racism from their hearts anyway. But to be loving, and join with other good, loving people, in solidarity, made sense to me. And, maybe, like the Buddha, we should be compassionate, loving, and by the example of our love, be a shining light to drive out the darkness, the hate.

So I posted the quote (above) from Dr. King, and added these words as preface:

Yes, but it’s not simply loving hateful people; it is loving their humanity, which we all share. Focusing on, and loving the good in them, to drive out the darkness and hate…and at the same time embracing, loving, and standing with good people, in unity, and in strength…

Then I came across a video of Australian comic, Jim Jefferies, who said it another way, and nailed it, combining the essence of Dr. King’s brilliant words, with the harsh realities of human behavior:

“The only thing that can beat hate, is love. But love doesn’t always beat hate, does it, but it does do something. Think about your own personal life; think about a person that hates you, and you hate them. From now on, just show that person nothing but love. Now I’m not saying for a second that person will start loving you, they’ll probably still f___ing hate you. But one thing will happen, eventually, everyone will see them as the asshole! Don’t be the asshole…”

So, love is in fact the only thing, which can drive out, and ultimately replace hate. Only knowledge and experience can drive out and replace the ignorance and fear, which fuels racism. Only light can replace darkness. I guess all good, non-racist people had better stock up on the highest-wattage light bulbs, plus all the solar panels and batteries we can get our hands on, for the loving, light-shining, driving-out-the-racism battle ahead!

As they say in the gospel children’s song:

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!”

— Russ Murray —


Buddha - compassion - empathy - acknowledging the deaths of strangers

Acknowledging the Death of Strangers (Empathy)

After an otherwise enjoyable holiday weekend with family and friends, I found myself saddened once again by news of murder and death, and posted this status update to my Facebook feed on July 4th:

“Today, as we celebrate our American Independence Day, my heart breaks for the victims of hate in Baghdad, Iraq and Dhaka, Bangladesh.”

Many of my “friends” responded with sad and angry emoticons, a few with standard Facebook “likes” indicating (I hope) approval of my post, rather than their like of murder and/or death. I should point out that my “friends” are comprised of the following five (5) types, which may alter the significance and value of their responses to my posts:
  1. Family & Close Friends = 40+
  2. Friends, Colleagues & Fellow Alumni = 500+
  3. Real Social Media Friends (people I’ve had dialogue with over time, and about whose lives I know something) = 500+
  4. Social Media “Friends” I Don’t Really Know (but friended because they were in one or more communities — such as photography, art, fashion — in which I work, take pleasure, or both) = 3000+ OK, I freely admit to going a little “friend-crazy” for a while there, but it’s fun, and good for my work too…
  5. Social Media Friends of Friends (no idea who they are; don’t know anything about them, but due to some recently added Facebook functionality, they can see our mutual friends’ interactions with my posts, and may occasionally comment on my posts as a result) = UNLIMITED?

My “friends” responding on Facebook to this particular status update, fell into all five types/categories, though of course (as usual) my “besties” were well-represented. One Type 4 commented with her assent in Portuguese (Brazilian, I think), and after 24 hours, a Type 3 friend from the UK added her support:

The unheard… Yes”

History: I “met” this Type 3 friend on Instagram a few years back, enjoyed her images, had some nice dialogue with her about Hipstamatic, common musical interests, and our mutual “friends” there. Hadn’t had any interaction in a year or more with her, so I enjoyed seeing her comment, and that she pointed out I had acknowledged the “unheard” victims (those not known, or mentioned sufficiently, if at all, in the media of my country, the USA). A short time later, a Type 5 — apparently a friend of Ms. Type 3 — threw her conversational hat into the ring with:
“They are the heard, the unheard are the ones your heart is not breaking for because that is the agenda your media has set out for you.”
 OK, a new Type 5 in my life! The way I see it, any friend of a Type 1–4 friend, is a Type 5 friend of mine!  I actually agreed with her comment, though it seemed a little like our mutual friend and I were both being chided for being limited in our information (from “our” media) and only acknowledging both the heard, known victims. I see myself as a bleeding heart, and an equal-opportunity breaking-heart, so I responded:
“We do what we can! We cannot hear and know everything, and we cannot fight every injustice…”

Innocuous enough, right? I admitted to being limited in what I know, or become aware of, whatever the source of my information may be, and I thought this response would end the dialogue between us on this post. I should mention that with rare exceptions, I NEVER engage (even with family) in long, passionate social media dialogues, debates and/or arguments, preferring a private message, email or even a phone call for anything longer than 2-3 back-and-forths! But my new Type 5 “friend” continued:

“Exactly why it’s boring to me to see people posting what the current media agenda wants them to think. as if these people mean anything to you really. they probably live nowhere near you, and their deaths are really meaningless to you. peoples focus or empathy is directed by the media, and it shouldn’t be that way, part of the large disconnect to me seems to be humans trying to ingest such a huge amount of information they can’t handle it. e.g. if your heart really went out for everyone that died, you would have killed yourself already.”

I read this carefully…extracting three main points she seemed to be making: (1) it’s boring to post anything that is based on our media-provided information, (2) the death of strangers is not meaningful, and should not invoke feelings in me or anyone else, because the media is directing our emotions and (3) humans are disconnected because they ingest too much information. Oh, and (4) if I really felt all the heartbreak for all the death, I’d have committed suicide by now.

After some reflection, I found myself taking offense to the “boring” comment (I hate when my kids say something is boring, or they’re bored), smiling at the “heartbreak/suicide bit, because I’m an empathic person, and I feel things on behalf of others all the time. Then I thought about what the death of a stranger really means, and how I/we ingest our information, and react to it…

While I mused, my Type 3 concurred with Type 5, seemingly rescinding her support of my original status update post and they went on to banter back-and-forth about the boring, predictableness of it all:

“It’s true what you say”
“I know hehehe”
“Watching Facebook posts. It’s like they are scripted”
I know”
Predictive text”
Well…you could say that many people saying and/or feeling the same thing(s), is mass emotion, patterns in the matrix, or synchronicity, but it is certainly not scripted. Some people are not unique, or don’t try to say things in a unique, compelling, or fabulous way when they are participating in a mass emotion. So I replied (edited to protect both the guilty and innocent):
“Boring? NO, and if death ever becomes boring, and unworthy of attention, acknowledgement, or empathy, for anyone, then such a person has fallen into some horrible form of jaded, uncaring complacency! And, MY posts (unlike everyone else’s, of course!) are not scripted, though they may be predictable sometimes (if you know me).
Here’s why: I write haiku, which came out of captioning my photographs for several years, and discovering I was quite often writing them in 5-7-5 haiku form. Next, I developed a desire to post topical haiku (and senryu), which was often inspired by or based current events (via the media). For a while, I tried to comment meaningfully via my haiku and images on the atrocities and deaths (those I was aware of, of course) in the world around me, but honestly, I became exhausted by it all (not quite suicidal, as you suggest), and could no longer write anything meaningful.
Instead, just on Facebook, I moved to a sort of emotional mantra beginning with “today, my heart breaks for…” and I will continue to do so because — although the victims are usually far away, and not known to me personally — it is important to acknowledge their death and suffering as the result of hate crimes, war, and other atrocities.
I suppose this means I will inevitably continue to bore you with my ongoing acknowledgements of death by hate around the world (the incidents my media and a few friends will tell me about), in a predictable format. I can’t write any more haiku about it, ’cause there’s too much death by hate and other atrocities, but I am an empath, so my heart actually does break a little every f__king time… So, prepare yourself!

So, I think it’s critically important — part of the “job description” — for any human to acknowledge and feel sadness at the death or suffering of others, especially when it results from hate, war, or terrorism. Due to the size of our planet, with its large and growing population, 99.999999% (that’s six nines) of the tme, virtually all others who die will be strangers to us, people we have never met before, and would probably never meet, even if they had lived. Yet we must feel something when we hear of their untimely death(s), at the hands of criminals, madmen, and/or terrorists, don’t you think?

Feeling something for the victims of atrocities is necessary and good — whether outrage, anger, desire for justice, or compassion, sadness, empathy — these feelings are the best evidence of our humanity. These days, more than ever, we are given many opportunities to feel such feelings; we must continue to feel them, and prove our humanity. We should feel strong feelings when we hear of murders and terrorism. Strong feelings are the basis of change; the inspiration and motivation to envision, and work toward change, to make things better for ourselves, and others.

Is the media filtering our information? Yes. Is the media leading us in a direction, shifting us in and out of focus, invoking the feelings they think we should feel? Absolutely! In this I agree with my new Type 5 friend, and all I can say is what I’ve learned, and try to teach my kids:

“Get your news and other information from more than one source, process and cross-reference the information, to find the truth.”

If, as Brian Tracy said, “competence is the number of patterns you recognize” then, to be competent at living our lives, we must process all possible news and information, from all available sources, to recognize as many patterns as possible, of truth in our world, our lives, and our humanity. We will discover, if we haven’t already, that feeling compassion and empathy, in response to atrocities, is a fundamental, and necessary human pattern. It’s also a gift, which we give (and must keep giving) naturally and selflessly to the victims of hate, war and terrorism, whoever and wherever they are, even if we don’t know them.

Compassion and empathy, especially for strangers, are the best proof of our humanity.

— Russ —

SHAMELESS PLUG: If interested, click here to check out some of my poetry as mentioned above: Haiku & Senryu musings by the Haikook (Russ Murray)!