We in New Thought have a timely opportunity to act regarding one of the most significant issues of our time. Beginning in September, the third module of AGNT’s Spiritually-guided Social Uplift Ministries (SUM) will focus on Healing Racism & Upholding Ethnic Fairness. This topic is very much in the foreground within New Thought and beyond today. The legacy of racism and ethnic discrimination is deeply interwoven into modern culture, not only in the United States, but everywhere. Interestingly, just this week, the New York Times published The 1619 Project, an in-depth look at the history of slavery in the United States, and how it was present as early as 1619 in the Jamestown Colony.
“The problem is that my generation was pacified into believing that racism existed only in our history books.”
~ Chance the Rapper
The irony here, as The 1619 Project points out, is that the racism reported in our history books was actually a small slice of the reality, a slice that was not too upsetting to white parents, school board members, and textbook publishers. The responses we are seeing across the political spectrum speak to the difficulty in challenging the beliefs and values of those who benefit from the status quo – there is a strong backlash from many establishment figures who are, naturally, threatened by this material.
Another issue is that of ethnic discrimination, to which this quote speaks eloquently:
“[…] as the bearer of an Asian face in America, you paid some incremental penalty, never absolute, but always omnipresent, that meant that you were by default unlovable and unloved; that you were presumptively a nobody, a mute and servile figure, distinguishable above all by your total incapacity to threaten anyone; that you were many laudable things that the world might respect and reward, but that you were fundamentally powerless to affect anyone in a way that would make you either loved or feared. . . . Could it possibly be true? Could it survive empirical scrutiny? It was a dogmatic statement at once unprovable and unfalsifiable. It was a paranoid statement about the way others regarded you that couldn’t possibly be true in any literal sense. It had no real truth value, except that under certain conditions, one felt it with every fiber of one’s being to be true.”
~ Wesley Yang, The Souls of Yellow Folk: Essays
The feeling of diminishment is only the beginning of the effects of discrimination – as our history shows, there has been a legacy of violence, economic discrimination, cultural exclusion and more linked to racism and ethnic discrimination.
But why does this have to be addressed in my spiritual community? you may ask. People here get along, why stir up feelings of guilt and make people feel uncomfortable – shouldn’t we be comforting people? The answer to these and similar questions best answered along these lines: if our spiritual principles are indeed valid and can teach people how to heal anything in their lives, isn’t it incumbent upon us to use them to heal such a deep and fundamental wound in our collective culture? Are we so afraid of confronting this negativity that we will suspend our belief in our principles? Or, do we resist bringing up the collective guilt, those of us who are of the white race and are in ministry? Have yet to encounter a spiritual leader who is a person of color who resists focusing on this topic.
Do we fear the righteous anger of those who have been excluded and harmed, if not by our direct actions, then by the effects of living in a culture which benefited white people automatically at the expense of other races and ethnicities? Are we ready to heal that fear, roll up our sleeves, and confront our unhealed past?
It has been said, accurately, I believe, that racism is a white problem. It should not be left to people of color to do the healing work alone, nor to lead those efforts. It should be an initiative of white people, especially those in spiritual leadership, to seek partnership with people of color in coming to resolution and reconciliation at every level of existence – in families, spiritual communities, towns and cities, states and provinces, and nations.
The SUM curriculum is designed to help in this process by providing tools and insights into how to do this important work with compassion and wisdom. I urge those who read this blog to share this news with others in your spiritual communities and to come together and participate in this process as a community. It is a first step with great potential. We grow stronger in our diversity when everyone genuinely has an equal seat at the table.
"Diversity ... is not polite accommodation. Instead, diversity is, in action, the sometimes painful awareness that other people, other races, other voices, other habits of mind, have as much integrity of being, as much claim on the world as you do. And I urge you, amid all the differences present to the eye and mind, to reach out to create the bond that will protect us all. We are meant to be here together."
~ William Merritt Chase