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Our Series; “The Four Agreements – 2nd Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally’
Good morning again, and it is great to be with you again, even if it is in these circumstances. Any way we can stay connected with you…right!
We are in our second week of this new series on the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. This series is giving us another opportunity to question where we are and where we wish to be headed on the spiritual journey, we call life.
Forward or backwards? Which will it be? Always your choice. Thought we know by now that going backwards isn’t really an option. Once we know these truths, we can’t really go back.
And these Agreements may help us all make the choices we need to make on the journey of forward motion.
Remember, these are agreements that you have made with life. You must have agreed with it to make it true for you.
SO, did last week’s Message, “Be Impeccable with Your Word” start anything for you? Did it resonate? Did you consider your words and what they were telling you about yourself? About others?
We want to use our words to build up, not take down. We wish to speak with integrity and honesty.
This second agreement is about thoughts, words, and actions also, but it is about what others have to say about us and how we handle it.
“Don’t take anything personally”
When we take things personally, we are agreeing with what was said about us. We are trapped in ‘personal importance,’ everything is about me, me, me.
Are we really that self-centered?
Even when a situation seems so personal, maybe someone is insulting you directly, it’s not you. It’s the other person’s issue.
I am sure we all have situations where we have been insulted, or hurt, by something that was said towards you. It can be difficult to not be offended when that statement hits a chord within you.
I can recall walking my first bichon, Tosha, she was getting old, walking slow, her fur not as thick, you could see her age spots through it. As we walked through the neighborhood, some teens skateboarded by us saying, “Ugly lady, ugly dog.” I must have believed that to have it bother me at the time.
Or when we had a chasm in our young Unity community a few years ago, I was told by one of the folks who suddenly left the congregation, that I didn’t know what I was doing and we needed someone who did.
Each time I had to go within and see where I believed the statement and then heal that wound.
So, pay attention to those times when we are wounded by another’s words or actions. See where the wound is that needs healing. And then work on that healing.
We can’t truly be free until we can stop taking things personally. At the time we get offended we have given our power to that person. We are being controlled by their words, behavior, their actions.
As soon as we understand that what others think about us is none of our business, we are free.
But when we buy into their words, we have given over to the attachment of those words…they now have meaning to us, we believe them.
What would happen if we took that energy from being offended and use it to be transformed? To truly know who we are, what we are made of?
We are of God, Divine Spirit…we are spiritual beings; we are not powerless, not weak, but powerful.
Don’t react when someone says to you, “Now don’t take this personally, but…?” WE know intellectually who we are, but we still get that gut reaction, don’t we.
We must learn to keep our hearts open and not take it personally. Whatever it is, it has nothing to do with us, it is about them.
Stop living in the realm of emotions and the outer and begin to live from within. DO not be a victim to others’ opinions…don’t take things personally.
Here are the steps to remember who we are when someone offends us:
- Be still, be silent
- Recognize that our buttons have been pushed.
- Look within to find the wounded place, an old story and heal it.
- Remember to open your heart.
- Remember we are made of spirit
- Remember that whatever anyone does or says to you, that it does not disturb the calm peace of your soul.
“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you will be the victim of needless suffering.”
Don’t choose suffering. Take the opportunity to transform that energy to growth. Be the true you…a part of our Creator, blessed to be here. Be grateful for all your blessings and share them with your family and friends. Share your love with the Earth and her children.
Let’s get back on track and take care of each other. And we can do that by knowing what we say and how we say it. Speak with truth and honesty, with compassion and love and we will transform our world to one of peace.
New Series: The Four Agreements
Do you remember when you were very young, growing up first in your family, and later as you made your way through your school. Maybe attending a religious service weekly.
And all the things, the rules and concepts and laws that you, and me…all of us, were taught as we made our way along in family and society.
We learned what our language was and our religion, what the rules of the house were and what would happen if they were not followed. And we continued to learn the rewards and punishments as we moved through all the parts of society…home, school, church, work…etc.
Don Miguel Ruiz calls these Agreements. We made agreements with our families, our school and workplace, everywhere. We allowed ourselves to be domesticated by our society, by these hundreds of agreements.
If we wished for acceptance, we strived to follow these rules of rewards and punishments. This was what brought us love…and who doesn’t want love?
If we are beautiful enough…we will be loved.
If we are smart enough…we will be loved.
If we don’t show emotion…don’t cry…we will be loved.
If we stood out with talent, athletically or academically or musically or artistically….we would be loved. We’d have fans.
Don Miguel Ruiz tells us, “Whenever we hear an opinion and believe it, we make an agreement, and it becomes part of our belief system. …somewhere someone told us through their word, that we were not enough, and we agreed with it.”
And so, we end up judging ourselves…comparing ourselves against others. We judge the others too, searching for perfection.
Well, the time of making our way through life repeating the same 95% of the 60,000 thoughts we have every day is gone. We are way past the time foraging for food while at the same time watching out for saber-toothed tiger attacks.
Of all these agreements, the most important ones are the ones you have with yourself…who you are, what you feel, what you believe, and how to behave. I see it as your true self, your integrity.
When we hold onto agreements that make us suffer, make us fail in life…they hold us back. They interfere with our inner as well as outer, growth.
We must find the will, the courage to break these fear-based agreements.
To do that, we can use these positive, Four Agreements:
- Be impeccable with your word
- Don’t take anything personally
- Don’t make assumptions
- Always do your best
By making a pact with these four key agreements, an individual is able to dramatically impact the amount of happiness they feel in their lives, regardless of external circumstances
We will look at each for the next weeks and then associate them with the four themes of Advent. So, pay attention please, as we move forward, so you will be able to relate it all together.
First, Be impeccable with your word.
In Ruiz’s mind, this is the most important.’ Can you think why?
It is the most difficult one to honor
To be impeccable means to be in accordance with the highest standards of propriety; faultless.
We are told that being impeccable means “without sin.” A sin, according to Ruiz, is anything that you do which goes against yourself. When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself.”
We ‘speak with integrity.’ Saying only what you mean. And avoiding speaking against yourself or to gossip.
This is more than being honest. We are to use our speech to lift up ourselves and those around us, to build community rather than tear it down.
Being impeccable with our word begins with ourselves. We all know that a lot of negative self-talk goes on…in fact, we probably talk more negatively about ourselves than we do of others. If we use negative talk with ourselves, it’s bound to come out against others eventually.
Of course, we all make mistakes, but as we take responsibility for our words and actions without judgment for ourselves or for others, we learn and grow. And move forward.
Our words are not just a sound or a written symbol. They have energy, force…it is a power we all have to express and communicate, to think and to create.
We humans are the only creatures that have this power of the word, to create…like magic…
“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.” – Dumbledore
Words have power. Their meaning crystallizes perceptions that shape our beliefs, drive our behavior, and ultimately, create our world. Their power arises from our emotional responses when we read, speak, or hear them.
Take the words interview and interrogation. Which would you like to hear when entering a meeting?
Each one presented a different vision in your mind as to what you might experience in the meeting, did it not?
So, we need to choose our words wisely.
Rumi: “Raise your words, not your voice. It is the rain that grows flowers, not the thunder.”
We learned to gossip by agreement. As children we heard the adults around us gossip, openly giving their opinions about others, we thought this was a normal way of communicating.
Gossip is likened to a computer virus, using the same language but with harmful intent. Often, hearing something said about another is imprinted in our mind, and it is difficult to release. This is the harm of gossip.
There is the story of a man living in a village. He got along with his neighbors for a time. Then, one day, his neighbors started ignoring him, He didn’t understand why. Eventually, no one in the village would speak with him.
One day he asked his neighbor what had happened, why wouldn’t they speak with him and the neighbor confessed that he had started a rumor about him, in a jealous moment of not thinking.
He asked what he could do to make amends.
The man asked his neighbor to come to his house. They went upstairs to the bedroom window, opened it and took a feather pillow, ripped it open and shook it out the window.
Feathers flowed everywhere, as they reached the ground a breeze came by a blew them further in all directions. The neighbor looked at the man who lied about his reputation said, ‘those feathers are like your words, once spoken, they can’t be brought back.’
We are imprinted with the words and the emotional code that they were said with. We may not know why the other was saying the words – were they angry, jealous? What was the motivation?
So, we end up looking through the other persons lens; their fear and judgments, instead of our own opinions.
We are always building our world with our words….what are you building?
If we are going to be Impeccable with our words, we are
- Building our own self up with the words,
- Supporting others, sharing love, radiating positive thoughts and feelings,
- Using our words in the direction of truth and the energy of love.
When we use our word to support another, to share love, positive thoughts, feelings, we are actually loving ourselves.
We can only use our word ‘against another, (which is actually against ourselves) if we do not love ourselves.
Buddha – “Whatever words we utter should be chosen with great care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.”
From ‘The Four Agreements’ “For years we have received gossip from the words of others, but also from ourselves. We talk to ourselves constantly, and mostly saying things like: ‘oh, I look fat,’ ‘I look ugly,’ ‘I’m getting old,’ ‘I’m stupid,’ ‘I will never be good enough,’ and similar negative statements.” See how we use the word against ourselves?
We must begin to understand what the word is and what it does.
If we understand the 1st agreement, be impeccable with your word, we begin to see all the changes that can happen in our life. Changes first in the way we deal with ourself, and later in the way we deal with other people, especially those we love the most.
Consider that your opinion is only your point of view, created from your beliefs, your ego and your dream. Spreading it to others is your ego wishing to be right.
Being impeccable with your word clears your mind from negativity, so only words of love survive.
Just this one agreement can change your whole life. It can free you from all fear and transform it into joy and love.
Here are some positive ways to put this into practice:
Ask yourself where you are impeccable with your word?
Practice using your words with integrity.
Begin with yourself…tell yourself each day how much you love yourself, how great you are, how wonderful you are.
Use words to break the agreements you have made with yourself, maybe through domestication with your family, your religious beliefs.
Speak only words of love, peace, joy.
In 1712, William Lynch stood on the bank of the James River and gave a speech, the topic, How to Make a Slave. His secret, separation, intimidation and manipulation. We know about the whippings. But the manipulation between old and young, and especially between male and female, we most likely did not.
Willie Lynch’s idea was to change the hierarchy of the family, making the woman the strong, independent one and the male the weaker by removing him from the family, often whipping him, selling him or even killing him-in an effort to show him as weak. That way, the child becomes dependent upon the female psychologically, spiritually. Willies’ idea of taking the male away from the female after a child is born to make the child dependent upon their mother may, in my opinion, be seen in many of today’s families still.
Just an example of the strength of family history and domestication in the life of African Americans.
We have looked at both white privilege and racial history. Even I, who grew up very poor, in a food insecure household for half of my childhood, I understand that I had and probably still have, white privilege.
And I believe that when we begin with admitting we had a start, however small, we still had a start over people of color.
And from there, once we admit to that privilege, we can open our eyes to see our racism and start learning to resolve it…where did it come from and what do we do with it, how do we release it from our minds and especially, from our hearts.
For that, we see guidance everywhere in the Bible: for example, from Philippians 2:3-4
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
It is within OUR interests to remove racism from our hearts. We each start with ourselves and so begin the transformation of our nation. Remember, peace begins with each of us.
I have something I found on FB from David Gamble, Jr., a black man. He posted it June 13th and it has been shared over 94000 times, with over 1000 comments, mostly of appreciation. This is part of that essay, giving us a brief look at racism in our country:
I grew up in Reno, Nevada.
In third grade a boy confidently tells me and my brother that his mom said black people cannot swim because our muscles are different than those of white people.
In middle school, standing among a group of white classmates talking about video games, I am the only black child. One classmate expresses surprise that my family has enough money to afford a PlayStation.
In high school, my brother is at a teen house party that gets broken up by police, a common occurrence. The kids at the party scatter, also a common occurrence. My brother, the only black child in attendance, is the only one on whom a police officer draws a firearm to get him to stop running away. He is 14.
In high school, a group of my white friends frequently sneak on to the outdoor basketball courts at an athletic club to play. They can usually play for hours, including with club members. On the two occasions I attend, club members complained, and we are ejected from the club within minutes.
In high school, I am excited about black history month and am talking to a friend about black inventors. My friend snorts and says, “Black people have never invented anything.”
In college I am standing in a group of white friends on campus. A white acquaintance of one of my friends approaches to chat. The acquaintance tells a story about something that frustrated him and then reels off a series of expletives ending with the N word. None of my friends corrects him.
In college I visit an antique shop in Auburn, California with my girlfriend, who is white, and her parents. The shopkeeper follows me around the store whistling loudly as I browse, until we leave.
I move to San Diego, California for law school.
In law school, during a discussion in my criminal law class, a white classmate suggests that police officers should take a suspect’s race into account when determining whether there is reasonable suspicion to believe that an individual is committing a crime.
The weekend of my law school graduation my family comes to San Diego. I go to the mall with my brother and sister and visit the Burberry store. Two different employees follow us around the store – never speaking to us – until we leave.
After law school, I return to Reno.
I attend a pub crawl with friends. We end up at a party in a hotel suite in downtown Reno. I am greeted by a white man at the door who loudly expresses surprise that I am an “educated negro” upon hearing me speak.
I walk a friend who is a white woman from a restaurant to her car because it is night- time. As we stand by the car chatting, a police officer pulls up and shines a light on us, asking if everything is okay. Once my friend confirms, the officer drives away. I tell her that he was worried about her, she teasingly says, “Oh yeah, because you’re so scary.” Later, I tell another white friend I felt racially profiled by the officer. My friend shrugs and says, “I don’t know man, that’s a stretch.”
A white friend tells me that white voters have become upset at black people because of black people’s liberal use of food welfare benefits. When I point out that more whites than blacks receive welfare benefits in the U.S., my friend expresses confusion at how that could be the case.
I discover that one of my clients does not want me to represent him as his Public Defender because he does not want a black attorney. I am given the option to withdraw as counsel. I do not.
Last year, I am at a barbecue chatting with a white acquaintance who asks if I have ever experienced racism. When I say it is a nearly daily occurrence, the acquaintance retorts, without missing a beat, that that is “BS.”
Before any of these instances, my family of origin moved to Reno, Nevada from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1984.
My mother recently told me that when I was a very young child my parents hired a company to remove a tree from our front lawn. Two white men showed up and removed the tree. One of them carved a swastika into the stump. My father had to confront him and ask him to remove it.
Before that, my now 93 -year-old grandfather served in the Army National Guard and was stationed in the U.S. south. Despite being active duty, he was not allowed to eat in restaurants due to “whites only” signage. He had to wait for fellow Guardsmen to bring him food outside.
Not long before that, my family were slaves, owned by Americans of English and Irish descent, which is why – despite being primarily of African descent – I have an English last name.
This is my experience of being black in America. To be black in America is to be told over and over that you are not good enough, that you do not belong, that you are genetically unfit, that your physical presence is undesirable, and that everything about you – right down to your lips – is wrong. It is absolutely true that everyone experiences hardships in life, but the psychological weight of being told both explicitly and implicitly, on a daily basis, that your very existence is objectionable can at times feel unbearable.
And despite this experience, I still love my country, my state, and my city. Despite my experience, I would not choose to be anything other than a black American. The history of black people in this country is one of struggle and triumph.
Our people were brought to this country as slaves and against all odds, in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, have made our mark. Through slavery, poll taxes, literacy tests, redlining, and black codes we have persevered. Through the unspeakable horrors of mass lynching’s, the Tuskegee syphilis experiments; and the massacres at Tulsa and Rosewood, we have persevered.
Bass Reeves, Dovey Johnson Roundtree, Sarah Boone, Oscar Micheaux, Shirley Chisholm, Dorie Miller, Susie King Taylor, Georgia Gilmore, Octavius Catto, Jack Johnson, Garrett Morgan, James W.C. Pennington. These are just a handful of extraordinary and oft forgotten black Americans who helped to mold and preserve the American Dream. These individuals and their accomplishments should not be regarded as “black history,” but rather as American history.
I am an American of privilege, which makes me an African American of great privilege. I am an attorney. I live in a safe neighborhood. My children do not worry about their next meal. I can afford child-care. My family can afford personal vehicles. If my children become sick, I can take them to the doctor.
If I am this privileged, and these have been my experiences, primarily in my own hometown, often with friends and acquaintances who are fond of me, and of whom I remain fond even now; just imagine what daily life must be like for a black person in this country who does not enjoy my level of privilege.
The protests in the streets of America are certainly about the killing of George Floyd, but not just about George Floyd. They are about countless black men, women, and children for whom the punishment did not fit the crime – if indeed there was a crime at all. We live in a country where, in order to recall what life under Jim Crow felt like, many white Americans must pick up a history book. Meanwhile, many black Americans need only pick up a telephone, and call their parents.
When we as people of color share our experiences, we are not doing so to score political points, “play the race card,” get sympathy, assign blame, or to make you feel bad about yourself. We are asking you for help. We are asking you to join us in the ongoing fight against racism in our country, because we cannot do it alone. It will take Americans of every stripe to eradicate racism from American society.
I am now asking for your help. Please seek truth and knowledge. When sharing information, please check your sources and make sure that they are reliable. Try to place what is happening today into a historical context. Read about systemic racism and anti-racism. When your friends of color tell you that racism is real and affecting their lives, believe them and then, if you can, do something about it.
My children are likely to attend the same middle school and high school that I did. It is my great hope for them that those around them have the knowledge, compassion, and guidance to know better than to daily deluge them with words that make them doubt their intelligence, their beauty, and their worth as human beings based only on the color of their skin; and instead judge them by the content of their character.
It is for all of the above reasons, and so many more that we proudly say #blacklivesmatter
That was an essay from David Gamble, Jr. I thought it important to hear his message as we conclude our series on racism.
We are all, people of color and white people, burdened with our history of racial injustice. The onus is on all of us to confront our nation’s legacy of intolerance. Ask yourself, what is yours to do? Yes, start with yourself…ask questions, talk with others, reach out to learn what you can do for yourself and for our country, to make a change in this world. Knowledge is the key to understanding.
OUR Principles tell us that we are all one, with Divine Spirit as our Source, in and all around us. And as we learn more about our world and those in it, that knowledge brings us to new understanding. And once we know, we can’t go back. There is only forward.
So, ask what is yours to do, no matter what it is…it doesn’t need be some big Martin Luther King, Jr. type movement…every little bit helps. And it starts with each of us.
“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” — Galatians 3:28
Racism and Black History, pt. 2
Welcome back to our series on racism in America. Some may wonder why we would be discussing racism as a Sunday Message. Racism is a spiritual issue. Plane and simple. Take the politics out of it.
We need to resolve it spiritually. Look inside and see where your race issues lie. Then move forward from there.
Remember, we are all one. There is only Good, and we are all part of that good. It is of us and we are of IT.
SO, please look at this issue as a spiritual issue, keeping ego and domestication out of the discussion, out of your heart.
And so, I hope discussing this information will open your heart to what is true in our country and world. If we are all one, then there should be no racism.
But since it is present, we have some work to do.
We must seek to understand, each and every one of our brothers and sisters.
So, let’s continue our look at Black history and how it helped to get us where we are in our country today.
Two weeks ago, we looked at White Privilege.
Last week, we looked at early years of slavery. With the Emancipation Proclamation, and later Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution (1865), nearly four million slaves were freed.
But all these Amendments did little if racism is still so prevalent. It was and is more a moral issue than a legal one. Legality helps get us on the right track and helps to remind us where we needed to be.
The treatment of Africans and African Americans didn’t improve much. After being freed, they often found themselves tied to their former masters, working as sharecroppers because jobs, housing and food were not available to them. The promise of 40 acres and a mule did not happen to most.
And job opportunities were fewer to those looking into the booming manufacturing industry because of the increase of Irish and Italian immigrants taking those jobs, as well as the discriminations towards Blacks.
The Black Leaders didn’t help their cause either, as they often discriminated against their lighter skin colored brothers and sisters and vice versa.
But they DID chip away at the discrimination. They fought in both world wars, in some ways proving again that they were equal to their white brothers. They weren’t treated the same during their service, or when they returned, as we discussed last week. Those Service members were discriminated against by the GI Bill, if you recall…it was only for white GI’s.
They DID continue to prove that they were not ignorant or unable to learn. Some distinguished members of learned society gave us a variety of inventions, for example:
That ironing board we all know, and love was Invented by Sarah Boone in 1892
Carbon Light Bulb Filament invented by Lewis Latimer in 1881 allowed for longer lasting lights.
Automatic Elevator Doors, Invented by Alexander Miles in 1887
That Three-Light Traffic Light we try to beat was Invented by Garrett Morgan in 1923
As a postgraduate researcher at Columbia University in the late 1930s, Charles Drew invented a means of separating plasma from whole blood, allowing it to be stored for up to a week, far longer than had been possible at the time. Drew also discovered that plasma could be transfused between persons regardless of blood type.
Refrigerated Trucks, necessary for our ice cream as well as other food items, Invented by Frederick McKinley Jones in 1940
The Electret Microphone, Co-Invented by James E. West in 1964
Home Security System, Co-Invented by Mary Van Brittan Brown in 1966
Color IBM PC Monitor and Gigahertz Chip, Co-Invented by Mark Dean c. 1980 and 1999
Many more inventions were patented by Blacks. You might want to check that out.
Even though many members of the Black community moved forward in economic progress, it was hardly near what most whites were doing. They had to work harder to move forward, as we mentioned in our earlier Messages.
The Voting right act of 1965 was another hope to be the springboard to equality for the people of color. But it was not. Voter suppression, Jim Crow laws, literacy test, poll tax, physical harassment often kept the people from the polls.
White men who could not pass the literacy tests were able to vote due to the “Grandfather Clause” allowing them to participate in voting if their grandfathers voted by 1867
The grandfather clause was ruled unconstitutional in 1915. Poll taxes were abolished in 1964 with the 24th Amendment and literacy tests were outlawed under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
But did it stop voter suppression? No, and voter suppression continues to be a tool used to deter Black Americans and other minorities from voting today.
Congress did not provide enforcement for the 15th Amendment immediately, which didn’t help. And Tennessee was the last state to formally ratify the amendment in 1997, finally!
Additionally, the 19th Amendment did not guarantee Black women the right to vote. According to National Geographic, “In fall 1920, many Black women showed up at the polls.” In Kent County, Delaware, their numbers were “unusually large,” according to Wilmington’s News Journal, but officials turned away Black women who “failed to comply with the constitutional tests.”
Historians note an important difference between the motivation of white suffragists, who were working primarily with gender equality in mind, and black suffragists, who saw voting rights as a key part of racial equity and a means of uplifting their communities.
They continue to fight for equality and had made progress until recent events that have led to marching and in some cases, violence.
The progress after the Voting Rights Act came to a halt after the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court case, Shelby County v. Holder, changed the way the Voting Rights Act was implemented nationwide. Since 2010 before the decision, 25 states have put into place new requirements such as voter ID laws, closing polling places and cutbacks to early voting,
It seems in recent years we have moved backwards in our effort to be “all men are equal”
Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch wrote that the recent killing in that, “despite gains made in the past 50 years, we are still a nation riven by inequality and racial division.”
In 1968, the Kerner Commission, a group convened by President Lyndon Johnson, found that white racism, not black anger, was the impetus for the widespread civil unrest sweeping the nation.
As Alice George wrote in 2018, the commission’s report suggested that “[b]ad policing practices, a flawed justice system, unscrupulous consumer credit practices, poor or inadequate housing, high unemployment, voter suppression and other culturally embedded forms of racial discrimination all converged to propel violent upheaval.”
In fact, Fifty years after the Kerner Report’s release, a separate study assessed how much had changed; it concluded that conditions had actually worsened. In 2017, black unemployment was higher than in 1968, as was the rate of incarcerated individuals who were black. The wealth gap had also increased substantially, with the median white family having ten times more wealth than the median black family. “We are resegregating our cities and our schools, condemning millions of kids to inferior education and taking away their real possibility of getting out of poverty,” said Fred Harris, the last surviving member of the Kerner Commission, following the 2018 study’s release.
Anti-Black violence was growing. More and more vigilante attacks were terrorizing the Black communities.
More than 200 anti-lynching bills failed to make it through Congress. Per the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative, more than 4,400 lynching’s—mob killings undertaken without legal authority—took place in the U.S. between the end of Reconstruction and World War II.
Incredibly, the Senate only passed legislation declaring lynching a federal crime in 2018.
It’s taken marches and riots and raised fists and bended knee. Now, with the Black Lives Matter movement, maybe, just maybe, we have turned the corner.
This has been and will continue to be an interesting year. With the pandemic, the extreme weather, the killings and marches and yes, even riots, maybe we can actually see the other side of humanity.
But if we genuinely believe we are all one with Spirit, we need to do more, or we will lose our humanity.
Racism & Black America
Good Morning my friends and thank you for returning to our series on Racism in our America, and, too often, in the world. Do you recall one of the questions I asked everyone at the beginning of this series? It was about the college professor who asked her lecture students a question. Now if any of you have ever been in a college lecture hall, they can be sizeable. That’s important because of the result of the question.
The question was, “If any of you would be ok to be treated as a Black person in our country, please raise your hand.”
No one raised their hand. Would you? Probably not.
AS most of you know, Blacks and other people of color have often been treated most shameful, and sometimes repulsive ways, and not just in our past, but in recent times too.
How does that fit into “Love your neighbor as yourself”?
I can recall when I and a friend of mine, went to a traveling exhibit of the Titanic and its fateful sinking. We each were given the name and situation of a person who traveled on that doomed ship. We knew some background information, where their passage was and what happened to them after the ice-burg hit.
It was an interesting and more personal look at that historical event. You felt a real part of the experience, more so than just looking at exhibits.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to be able to do that with slavery? If we were more attached to the outcome of the person we were representing, maybe we would have a better and more compassionate understanding of what it meant and be better human beings to each other. If only.
It could and CAN happen. We need to keep working at understanding each other, but even more, ourselves.
The voyage from Africa to the Americas took several months. Many didn’t survive the trip. Shock, disease, and suicide were responsible for the deaths of at least one-sixth during the crossing. Some seeing suicide a better choice than being a slave. There were mostly young adults but many children too, most under ten, even as young as two, by one account.
The development of the belief that they were an “inferior” race with a “heathen” culture made it easier for whites to rationalize Black slavery.
Once purchased, the slaves were used in the tobacco, sugar and cotton fields as well as general labor and domestic work. Black slaves played a major, though unwilling and generally unrewarded, role in laying the economic foundations of the United States—especially in the South.
Many masters took sexual liberties with enslaved women, and rewarded obedient behavior with favors, while rebellious enslaved people were brutally punished. A social hierarchy among the plantation slaves also helped keep them divided.
At the top were the house slaves; next in rank were the skilled artisans; at the bottom were the vast majority of field hands, who bore the brunt of the harsh plantation life. This helped keep them divided and less likely to organize against their masters.
With this tight control there were few successful slave revolts. There were several, though not very successful to freeing themselves, and causing more hangings instead, though some whites were also killed.
Although Northern businessmen made great fortunes from the trade of enslaved peoples and from investments in Southern plantations, slavery was never widespread in the North. Remember, Northerners held themselves above the Southerners, considering themselves more educated, refined and open-minded.
Laws known as the slave codes regulated the slave system to promote absolute control by the master and complete submission by the slave. Under these laws the slave was a piece of property and a source of labor that could be bought and sold like an animal. The slave was allowed no stable family life and little privacy. Slaves were prohibited by law from learning to read or write.
During the American Revolution, some 5,000 Black soldiers and sailors fought on the American side. After the Revolution, some slaves—particularly former soldiers—were freed, and the Northern states abolished slavery.
But with the ratification of the Constitution of the United States, in 1788, slavery became more firmly entrenched than ever in the South. The Constitution counted a slave as three-fifths of a person for purposes of taxation and representation in Congress (thus increasing the number of representatives from slave states), prohibited Congress from abolishing the African trade of enslaved peoples before 1808, and provided for the return of fugitive slaves to their owners.
In 1807 Pres. Thomas Jefferson signed legislation that officially ended the African trade of enslaved peoples beginning in January 1808. However, this act did not end of slavery. Rather, it spurred the growth of the domestic trade of enslaved peoples in the United States, especially as a source of labor for the new cotton lands in the Southern interior. Increasingly, the supply of slaves came to be supplemented by the practice of “slave breeding,” in which women slaves were raped as early as age 13 and forced to give birth as often as possible.
Individual resistance by slaves took such forms as mothers killing their newborn children to save them from slavery, the poisoning of slave owners, the destruction of machinery and crops, arson, malingering (which may have led to the belief that Blacks were lazy), and running away.
We know of the Underground Railroad, and Harriet Tubman, a former slave who on numerous trips to the South helped hundreds of slaves escape to freedom. Imagine running for your life, meeting Harriet and knowing you must trust this woman that you do not know. And all the others along the railroad. Must have been frightening…and exhilarating. Freedom finally, after all that you have been through, you see the end….and a new beginning.
By 1860 there were almost 500,000 free Africans and African Americans (those born in America)—half in the South and half in the North. The free Black population originated with former indentured servants and their descendants. It was augmented by free Black immigrants from the West Indies and by Blacks freed by individual slave owners.
We know they were only technically free, however. In the South, where they posed a threat to the institution of slavery, they suffered both in law and by custom many of the restrictions imposed on slaves.
In the North, free Blacks were discriminated against in such rights as voting, property ownership, and freedom of movement, though they had some access to education and could organize. Free Blacks also faced the danger of being kidnapped and enslaved.
Did you know that there were Black slave holders? Well, they were free Blacks who often reunited family by purchasing them. One way of getting around the master’s keeping families apart.
In Dred Scott v. Sanford, in 1857, the Supreme Court denied citizenship to all slaves, ex-slaves, and descendants of slaves, and denied Congress the right to prohibit slavery in the territories.
Historians and judicial scholars regard the Dred Scott decision as “the worst decision ever.”
Free Blacks were among the first abolitionists.
By 1830, African American leaders began meeting regularly in national and state conventions. But they differed on the best strategies to use in the struggle against slavery and discrimination.
Some thought to revolt and overthrow their masters. Others proposed that a major modern Black country be established in Africa. Supported by the American Colonization Society, whose membership was overwhelmingly white, African Americans founded Liberia in West Africa
However, most Black leaders then and later regarded themselves as Americans and felt that the problems of their people could be solved only by a continuing struggle at home. Maybe the beginning of the Civil Rights movement.
The preservation of the Union, not the abolition of slavery, was the initial objective of President Lincoln when it came to the Civil War. He initially believed in gradual emancipation, with the federal government compensating the slaveholders for the loss of their “property.”
But in September 1862 he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that all slaves residing in states in rebellion against the United States as of January 1, 1863, were to be free. Thus, the Civil War became, in effect, a war to end slavery.
Blacks were recruited into the Union armed forces. Frederick Douglass declared in his newspaper the North Star, “Who would be free themselves must strike the blow.”
By the end of the Civil War more than 186,000 African American men were in the Union army. They performed heroically despite discrimination in pay, rations, equipment, and assignments as well as the unrelenting hostility of the Confederate troops. Slaves served as a labor force for the Confederacy, but thousands of them dropped their tools and escaped to the Union lines.
As a result of the Union victory in the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution (1865), nearly four million slaves were freed.
Yet the Reconstruction period (1865–77) was one of disappointment and frustration for African Americans, for these new provisions of the Constitution were often ignored, particularly in the South.
After the Civil War, the freedmen were thrown largely on their own meagre resources. Landless and uprooted, they moved about in search of work. They generally lacked adequate food, clothing, and shelter.
The Southern states enacted Black codes, laws resembling the slave codes that restricted the movement of the former slaves in an effort to force them to work as plantation laborers—often for their former masters—at absurdly low wages.
The federal Freedmen’s Bureau, established by Congress in 1865, assisted the former slaves by giving them food and finding jobs and homes for them. The bureau established hospitals and schools, including such institutions of higher learning as Fisk University and Hampton Institute.
During Reconstruction, African Americans wielded political power in the South for the first time. Their leaders were largely clergymen, lawyers, and teachers who had been educated in the North and abroad. Between 1869 and 1901, there were 20 African American representatives and 2 African American senators—Hiram R. Revels and Blanche K. Bruce of Mississippi—who sat in the U.S. Congress.
But Black political power was short-lived. Northern politicians grew increasingly conciliatory to the white South, so that by 1872 virtually all leaders of the Confederacy had been pardoned and were again able to vote and hold office.
By means of economic pressure and the terrorist activities of violent anti-Black groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, most African Americans were kept away from the polls. By 1877, when Pres. Rutherford B. Hayes withdrew the last federal troops from the South, Southern whites were again in full control. No African American was to serve in the U.S. Congress for three decades after the departure of George H. White of North Carolina in 1901.
The rebirth of white supremacy in the South was accompanied by the growth of enforced “racial” separation. Starting with Tennessee in 1870, all the Southern states reenacted laws prohibiting marriage between Blacks and whites. They also passed Jim Crow laws segregating Blacks and whites in almost all public places.
By 1885 most Southern states had officially segregated their public schools. Moreover, in 1896, in upholding a Louisiana law that required the segregation of passengers on railroad cars, the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson established the doctrine of “separate but equal.”
In the post-Reconstruction years, African Americans received only a small share of the increasing number of industrial jobs in Southern cities. And relatively few rural African Americans in the South owned their own farms, most remaining poor sharecroppers heavily in debt to white landlords. The largely urban Northern African American population fared little better. The jobs they sought were given to European immigrants. In search of improvement, many African Americans migrated westward.
SO we are able to see the foundation of white privilege and Black suppression as it started and continued through post-civil war.
Next week we look at Black lives since their supposed freedom.
Let’s finish this week with this thought that is relevant even today…and matches our 2nd Principle
“Right is of no Sex—Truth is of no Color—God is the Father of us all, and we are all Brethren.” Frederick Douglas
Racism & White Privilege, Pt. 2
One Sunday, last summer I believe it was, several of us went out for brunch after the Sunday Service. We met at a local restaurant and waited to be seated. I believe there were 5 of us, both African American and white folks.
When we finally were seated, we were given menus and chatted as we each were choosing what we wanted to eat.
Time past, people came and were seated after us, and were waited on after us, and even served after us.
Finally, as I started up to get the waitress passing us, our waitress stopped by the table. Of course, we all were ready to place our order by then.
That was the first time I had witnessed open prejudice because of race, or at least that it registered as such. Any other time I went to the restaurant, and I favored the place often, I had no problem getting seated timely and waited on quickly.
Up until recently, I had very little experience, directly, with people of color. And as I became involved with my spiritual journey, it has been one more thing that I have had to look at, brutally honestly, I must admit.
In Robin Diangelo’s book, “White Fragility – Why is it so hard for white people to talk about racism,” Diangelo looks at how, after the Civil Rights movement, we white northerners claimed a moral superiority over the southerners because we were good moral people who would not treat the Black community in such harsh ways.
We were progressive, educated, open-minded northerners, good moral folks while the racists were bad, ignorant, bigoted, old southerners. That was the thought at the time…and maybe still some today.
To call someone a racist was to insult their character. But instead of reflecting on that possibility, we use that energy to defend ourselves. And THIS is why it is nearly impossible to talk to white people about race.
“If we cannot discuss the dynamics of racism or see ourselves within them, we cannot stop participating in racism.”
If I said I am not racist, then it turns out to not be my problem, and I need not do anything more about it…. simple. But that way nothing gets done, nothing changes.
Is that your way out of looking deeper, not answering the question, Am I a Racist??
And saying you are colorblind is just an easy way out. Making excuses like I was taught to treat everyone the same; I don’t see color; if people are respectful to me, I am respectful to them, regardless of race; our family has multiracial children in it, or I went to a very diverse school or lived in a diverse neighborhood are more excuses to not look within.
How does any of these claims, and there are many more, function in the conversation about race? Do they exempt the person speaking it from any responsibility?
What they do is close rather than open the conversation to any further discussion or exploration.
And without that exploration, we do not change our outlook. And without that change, racism continues.
In reality, we can’t treat everyone the same because humans can’t be 100% objective, so claiming this closes us off again. And since we are born into the racist social system embedded in our culture and institutions, we can’t be brought up racism-free, as many claim.
“We live in a culture that circulates relentless messages of white superiority. And at the same time, relentless messages of black inferiority.”
Thus, white superiority depends on the projection of black inferiority.
We can’t have white privilege without blacks.
In America, black people are, as the Sentencing Project observes, “more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to experience lengthy prison sentences”.
And more likely to be killed by the police, too. Yet studies also show that the problems faced by African Americans are not due simply to white people, or even to white police officers, but to a system of justice that is structurally deeply unjust.
White privilege exists because of historic, enduring racism and biases.
When I say white privilege, what do you feel, what do you think? Oh, I wish you were here to have this discussion right now. Please respond on FB or email me.
Although the definition of “white privilege” has been somewhat fluid, it is generally agreed to refer to the implicit or systemic advantages that people who are deemed white have relative to people who are not deemed white.
White privilege is a way of conceptualizing racial inequalities that focuses on advantages that white people accrue from their position in society as well as the disadvantages that non-white people experience.
This same idea is brought to light by Peggy McIntosh, who wrote about white privilege from the perspective of a white individual in “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”. McIntosh states in her writing that, “as a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something which puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege which puts me at an advantage”.
Robin DiAngelo coined the term “white fragility” in the early 2010s, later releasing her 2018 book by that title. She has said that “white privilege can be thought of as unstable racial equilibrium”, and that when this equilibrium is challenged, the resulting racial stress can become intolerable and trigger a range of defensive responses. DiAngelo defines these behaviors as white fragility.
For example, DiAngelo observed in her studies that some white people, when confronted with racial issues concerning white privilege, may respond with dismissal, distress, or other defensive responses because they may feel personally implicated in white supremacy.
Elsewhere, it has been summarized as “the trademark inability of white Americans to meaningfully own their unearned privilege”.
DiAngelo also writes that white privilege is very rarely discussed and that even multicultural education courses tend to use vocabulary that further obfuscates racial privilege and defines race as something that only concerns blacks. She suggests using loaded terminology with negative connotations to people of color adds to the cycle of white privilege.
It is far more the norm for these courses and programs to use racially coded language such as ‘urban,’ ‘inner city,’ and ‘disadvantaged’ but to rarely use ‘white’ or ‘over advantaged’ or ‘privileged.’ This racially coded language reproduces racist images and perspectives while it simultaneously reproduces the comfortable illusion that race and its problems are what ‘they’ have, not us.
She does say, however, that defensiveness and discomfort from white people in response to being confronted with racial issues is not irrational but rather is often driven by subconscious, sometimes even well-meaning, attitudes toward racism.
The system of white privilege applies both to the way a person is treated by others and to a set of behaviors, affects, and thoughts, which can be learned and reinforced. These elements of “whiteness” establish social status and guarantee advantages for some people, without directly relying on skin color or other aspects of a person’s appearance.
In her book Privilege Revealed: How Invisible Preference Undermines America, Stephanie M. Wildman writes that many Americans who advocate a merit-based, race-free worldview do not acknowledge the systems of privilege which have benefited them. For example, many Americans rely on a social or financial inheritance from previous generations, an inheritance unlikely to be forthcoming if one’s ancestors were slaves.
Whites were sometimes afforded opportunities and benefits that were unavailable to others. In the middle of the 20th century, the government subsidized white homeownership through the Federal Housing Administration, but not homeownership by minorities.
Whites have historically had more opportunities to accumulate wealth. Some of the institutions of wealth creation amongst American citizens were open exclusively to whites. Similar differentials applied to the Social Security Act (which excluded agricultural and domestic workers, sectors that then included most black workers), rewards to military officers, and the educational benefits offered to returning soldiers after World War II
Thomas Shapiro wrote that wealth is passed along from generation to generation, giving whites a better “starting point” in life than other races. According to Shapiro, many whites receive financial assistance from their parents allowing them to live beyond their income. This, in turn, enables them to buy houses and major assets which aid in the accumulation of wealth. Since houses in white neighborhoods appreciate faster, even African Americans who can overcome their “starting point” are unlikely to accumulate wealth as fast as whites. Shapiro asserts this is a continual cycle from which whites consistently benefit. These benefits also have effects on schooling and other life opportunities.
WOW. I’ve learned a lot about white privilege these last few weeks. Even coming from a very poor background, I know now that my family still had a hand up over people of color.
Next week, we will continue our look at racism from the Black and people of color point of view, or at least I’ll give it a try.
A college professor asked her lecture class to raise their hand if any of them would be ok if they were treated like people of color, blacks and browns, were treated in our country.
No one raised their hand.
Would you have raised yours?
Racism and white privilege
Great morning and thank you for returning to our Sunday Service this morning. We are journeying through a discussion on racism and how it affects both white people and people of color.
Some of you may be saying, wait, how does racism affect white people? We’ll be delving into that subject this week.
Have you asked yourself if you are a racist? Honestly? Or ‘brutally honest’ as Dr. Phil would say. I would believe almost everyone has some racist issues in them. But we would have to be totally honest with ourselves, which may be something we have a hard time doing.
And why is that? Well, my Tuesday class would probably respond, our ego. Our ego wants it to be correct all the time, wants to be in charge. And having ‘you’ be right is what ego wants, even if it is the ego actually making the choice.
Maybe take some time today and the following week to ask yourself those hard questions…starting with, ‘am I a racist?’
I can walk into a room and, except for someone’s prejudice, they would see a now older white woman, with some graying hair, currently walking with a cane. They have no idea if I came from some European country or was born in America, what the economic status of my family was or is, and except for prejudices, what my sexual orientation or gender identity is.
Yet, if I was a person of color, everyone in that room would know that now. Though some people of color can pass for white, most cannot. So, they would have to face any others prejudices right away…without a word passing between each other.
People of color cannot hide that they are black or brown.
Last week, we talked a little about how ‘white’ became the race of power, of rights, of choice. If you were born of the white race, you have some privilege already.
Sure, there are other categories you can be born into that give you a bit more in society:
Citizenship: Simply being born in this country affords you certain privileges that non-citizens will never access.
Class: Being born into a financially stable family can help guarantee your health, happiness, safety, education, intelligence, and future opportunities.
Sexual orientation: If you were born straight, every state in this country affords you privileges that non-straight folks have to fight the Supreme Court for to get and to maintain!
Sex: If you were born male, you can assume that you can walk through a parking garage without worrying that you’ll be raped and then have to deal with a defense attorney blaming it on what you were wearing.
Ability: If you were born able-bodied, you probably don’t have to plan your life around handicap access, braille, or other special needs. After the hip replacement surgery, I have learned about the lack of access for people who are limited in ability. One thing is handicap parking…there needs to be more.
Gender identity: If you were born cisgender (that is, your gender identity matches the sex you were assigned at birth), you don’t have to worry that using the restroom or locker room will invoke public outrage. We heard a lot about this as schools were trying to provide access to restroom to accommodate students identified as transgendered.
So, if you are “straight, white, middle-class, able-bodied male, it can be like winning a lottery you didn’t even know you were playing.”
Then why is white privilege so important?
“Think of white privilege as an unearned, almost randomly assigned head start,” explains Mikki Kendall, author of Hood Feminism. “It doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to win the race. It just means that you get to start a few feet further forward. White privilege doesn’t mean you don’t have any hurdles, it just means you have fewer of them.”
White privilege (or white skin privilege) is the societal privilege that benefits white people over non-white people in some societies, particularly if they are otherwise under the same social, political, or economic circumstances.
With roots in European colonialism, the Atlantic slave trade, and the growth of the Second British Empire after 1783, white privilege has developed in circumstances that have broadly sought to protect white racial privileges, various national citizenships and other rights or special benefits.
In the study of white privilege, and its broader field of whiteness studies, academic perspectives such as critical race theory use the concept to analyze how racism and racialized societies affect the lives of white or white-skinned people.
For example, Peggy McIntosh, in “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” describes the advantages that whites in Western societies enjoy and non-whites do not experience, as “an invisible package of unearned assets”.
She lists 50 daily effects of white privilege that she could identify more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location.
White privilege denotes both obvious and less obvious passive advantages that white people may not recognize they have, which distinguishes it from overt bias or prejudice.
These include cultural affirmations of one’s own worth; presumed greater social status; and freedom to move, buy, work, play, and speak freely. The effects can be seen in professional, educational, and personal contexts. The concept of white privilege also implies the right to assume the universality of one’s own experiences, marking others as different or exceptional while perceiving oneself as normal.
Some commentators have observed that the “academic-sounding concept of white privilege” sometimes elicits defensiveness and misunderstanding among white people, in part due to how the concept of white privilege was rapidly brought into the mainstream spotlight through social media campaigns such as Black Lives Matter.
White privilege had been researched for many years before being brought into the limelight recently.
The concept of white privilege is frequently misinterpreted by non-academics; researchers have been surprised by the seemingly sudden hostility from right-wing critics since approximately 2014.
It only takes a few moments to realize that white privilege is real and has been here for decades. Here are some simple examples of white privilege:
1. Your Wages Aren’t Lower Because Of Your Race
Just as there’s a gender wage gap, there’s also a racial wage gap that stems from our country’s history and segregated education and housing systems. According to Bureau of Labor statistics on gender and racial pay inequality, white and Asian men are the highest earners, and black and Hispanic/Latina women are the lowest. The median weekly earnings of a Hispanic/Latina woman are $548, about half of Asian men’s $1,080 and 60 percent of white men’s $897.
2. People Don’t Make Assumptions About Your Intelligence Because Of Your Race
According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, white people subconsciously associate African Americans with lower intelligence. Another study in the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences found people hold the same assumptions about Hispanics.
3. You Don’t Feel Pressure to Represent Your Race
I never have to worry that if I make a mistake, people will assume I’ve made it because white people are less capable. On the other hand, President Obama makes a few mistakes, and Donald Trump says another black president won’t get elected. Being white absolves you from this pressure to defy your race’s stereotype so that your mistakes don’t hurt others of your race.
4. Most Products Are Geared Toward You
A white person can go into a store to buy Band-Aids, beauty products, and other items related to skin tone and walk out with something that suits them. People of color at best have a small section of products tailored toward them, reminding them that in the eyes of mainstream culture, they are invisible.
5. Most Media Is Geared Toward You
In addition to knowing I can buy products geared toward me, I can feel fairly confident that I will see people like me represented on TV, in movies, in magazines, in books, and all over the Internet. In particular, I am able to see examples of people like me succeeding, which has given me the message that I, too, can succeed. And rather than seeing my culture reduced to a stereotype, I have been shown a wide representation of people of my race.
Here’s an even better example…Marine Sergeant Jason Thomas, a black man, went directly to the wreckage after the 911 attacks and saved the lives of New York Port Authority officers. But when the movie of this event was made, he was portrayed as a white man.
6. Beauty Standards Aren’t Rigged Against You Because Of Your Race
The rigid beauty standards depicted in the media harm all women, and that harm can be due to factors other than race. But at least white women don’t usually feel pressure to have lighter skin, differently shaped eyes, or thinner hair on top of everything else. Due to racist beauty standards, one third to one fifth of women in Seoul, South Korea have undergone plastic surgery, largely to make their eyes look more like white people’s, and black women get fewer replies on OKCupid than women of any other race.
7. Jobs Won’t Discriminate Against You Due to Your Race
In an Auburn University study, researchers sent out identical resumes with white-sounding and black-sounding names to different companies to see who would get interviews. Black applicants got called in for interviews 15.2 percent of the time, while white ones did 18 percent of the time. Some white people might complain that diversity efforts lead people of color to be hired over them, but it actually works the other way around.
8. People Will Trust That You Deserve to Be Where You Are
When a white person joins a company or goes to college or wins an award, people will assume that they deserved it. When a person of color does, people wonder if they were chosen to fill a diversity quota. The reality is that people of color have earned just as many of these opportunities but aren’t getting them, which is why diversity efforts are necessary.
9. The Police Are Looking Out for You
Of the 3,000 uses of Tasers in Maryland over three years, 64 percent were used toward black men. And according to The Counted, which tracks deaths of Americans killed by police, Native Americans are killed by police nearly 2.4 times as often as white people. Blacks and Hispanics are also killed more often than whites and Asians. Racial profiling isn’t just in people’s heads; it’s very real, and it means that while white people may feel they can turn to the police for help, people of color are often targeted by the very group meant to protect them.
This is just a small example of what white privilege means if you aren’t white, if you are on the wrong side, shall we say, of the privilege track.
Remember what we said last week, equality means the quality or state of being equal the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.
We have been reminded for centuries, what is ours to do…it’s found in
“The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’.
Race and White Fragility
This morning I’d like to start a discussion on race. Not just Black or African American or Latino, or any other race or culture of color, but also how the white culture factors into the discrimination against these races and cultures. There are two sides to this dilemma, and we will look at both these next few weeks.
We’re starting a series on this topic using two books: “How to be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi and “White Fragility – Why is it so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin Diangelo.
The timing is appropriate. There has been and continues to be so much going on across our country and even in some other countries, about the actions and reactions of people, of both white and black races, as they respond to police shooting and sometimes, strangling, Black men and women, often unarmed.
We see all to often, another shooting of unarmed Blacks, especially, that it is just too commonplace.
But this discussion goes beyond the shooting of people of color. There is more to it.
So, let’s take a look at some history, some facts and set the stage for some discussion…yes, it is my hope that these Messages, just like those we presented in July with Leroy, Carolyn, Diane and Angela, will foster discussion around the dinner table and the conversation circles in homes across our area.
The most recently available Census statistics show that income inequality in America, as of 2018, is at its most extreme point in half a century. Access to a quality education remains heavily shaped by ZIP code, while access to a safe place to live remains heavily determined by wealth. Change is still undermined by the difficulty of voting. Even the water that comes out of America’s taps is unequal.
The pandemic has simply brought the disparities between whites and people of color to the surface even more.
“For every tortuous inch gained,” TIME declared when Martin Luther King Jr. was named Person of the Year for 1963, “there are miles of progress left to be covered.”
That statement is no less true today, unfortunately.
So, let’s start by defining what racism is: in “White Fragility,” it is defined as intentional acts of racial discrimination committed by immoral individuals, or a racist is someone who holds conscious dislike of people because of race.
Think on that before we go on.
This is not prejudice. According to Diangelo, “Prejudice is pre-judgement about another based upon the social groups that person belongs. It consists of thoughts and feelings, including stereotypes, attitudes, and generalizations that are based on little or no experience and then are projected onto everyone from that group.”
As a gay woman, I can relate somewhat to this. I, and many of my friends and acquaintances have been the subject of prejudice. And we learned from the Black community how to fight for equality through peaceful protests…and still are fighting.
We all have prejudice; it can’t be avoided. And its not a bad thing. It’s when we put action to those thoughts and feelings that discrimination happens.
If we deny that we have prejudice, Diangelo suggests we are ‘demonstrating a profound lack of self-awareness.’
Of course, we would have to admit to that, be aware of it, to be able to move on is self-awareness. We all know that self-awareness is needed to connect to our inner Christ.
The opposite of racist is ‘antiracist,’ one who endorses racial equality.’ They see the root of problems in power and policies.
Kendi states a racist is, “one who endorses the idea of a racial hierarchy; they believe problems are rooted in groups of people.”
Kendi continues, a racist is one who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inactions or expressing a racist idea.
And antiracist is one who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea.
And what is a racist policy? It is any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between racial groups.
An antiracist policy, then, would be any measure that produces or sustains racial equity between racial groups.
Policy is defined as written or unwritten laws, rules, procedures, processes, regulations or guidelines that govern people.
That’s a lot of information, but it gives us some groundwork to base our discussion upon. And we will use that foundation for our continued discussion through the following Sundays.
The Declaration of Independence tells us: all men are created equal.
And if we believe in that document, then where did we go awry?
THAT… goes way back.
I recall a Bible history I was studying when I was still in Unity Licensing classes. The history of the Near East, according to this is very interesting.
This is before the time of Abraham and Isaac, when the communities you would come across were matriarchal, the women were the leaders, taking care of the homes and crops and the spiritual welfare of the village, while the males hunted.
These were people who worshiped their Gods through nature Their main God was a Goddess.. The Head Woman was the representative of the Goddess
All was good.
Then they were invaded by an aggressive culture from the north, that believed in force and violence to conquer other cultures.
They tried to force their God onto the Goddess believers and but they met much resistance. The only way was to marry the Goddess representative and melt the cultures as best they could.
Of course, that meant that the males dominated the females. And as they came in contact with other races, the ‘whiter’ races determined in their minds that they were better, smarter, stronger…and therefore the leaders.
And so, begins, briefly, the history of how white became the skin color of choice. Arians coming from the north made a determination that their race was best. Sound familiar?
Hitler had the same idea.
That story or something similar, depending on who is telling it, was brought forward century after century. Time and again, the oppressed fought against their oppressors and time and again, the oppressed were held down.
It’s hard to get back up if you are continually pushed back.
The Declaration of Independence sounded simple enough: all men are created equal. For nearly 250 years, the U.S. has leaned on that founding principle. In theory, its meaning is clear. In practice, battles have raged—often times literally—over what it means, not just for American government but for American life in general.
So how would you define equal?
The dictionary defines it as: being the same in quantity, size, degree, or value; a person or thing considered to be the same as another in status or quality.
If this is what we base our constitution upon, what’s the problem? How could we get so off course, if ALL persons are created equal?
Of course, in the eyes of God, and supposedly, all God loving people, we ARE all equal.
But that is and has not been put into practice by all, for all.
The utopians might respond that prioritizing this supposed equality results in the very inequalities that they question: racial privilege, elite colleges, losers, sexism. They would argue that true equality requires taking from some and giving to others, to even out the differences. And so, equality seems absurd. Either it doesn’t exist or, if we claim it exists, it seems to defy reality. But Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln were not fools. They were neither cynics nor utopians.
For clarification, we should return to Abraham Lincoln’s subtle and profound teaching about equality, at a moment when that foundation was threatened by a form of inequality everyone today condemns, slavery. He once gave an instructive exercise in trying to prevent civil war.
In opposing the recently announced Dred Scott decision, in which the Supreme Court deprived African Americans of not only citizenship but of human dignity, Illinois Senate candidate Lincoln parried the vicious racial demagoguery on the part of incumbent Senator Stephen Douglas.
When Douglas accused him of being in favor of inter-racial marriage, Lincoln acknowledged that most of his white listeners opposed “amalgamation” with black people. Keep in mind, Illinois prohibited slavery but also discriminated against black people in innumerable ways.
Lincoln’s explanation defends liberty for all and justifies equality as an ideal. Just because he did not want to enslave a woman, he said, did not mean he personally wanted to marry her. “In some respects she certainly is not my equal; but in her natural right to eat the bread she earns with her own hands without asking leave of anyone else,” he went on, “she is my equal, and the equal of all others.”
It is important, as white people of America, that we fight racism by learning what it really means to be white and how that identity operates in the world.
We will look at both what it means to be a person of color and a white person. I hope you will follow our series and use it to delve into your own beliefs on race and maybe, if you find some racist beliefs within your heart, to let them go.
How Do We Stay Hopeful?
We are living in challenging times with much uncertainty. To triumph in any challenge and to move forward, we need to stay hopeful.
Although our minds can go to a place of fear and doubt, the expression, “hope springs eternal” is also true. It is our nature to look for hopefulness. Hope is defined as an optimistic state of mind that is based in an expectation for positive outcomes in one’s life and events in the world at large. Our Unity faith is based upon hope and possibility.
In the Bible, Hebrew 11:1, faith is described as the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. In Matthew 17:20 Jesus taught us, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith like a grain of a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there, and it will move.’ Nothing will be impossible for you.”
The Mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds, but grows to be the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree. As this metaphor implies when we plant seeds of hope in our spirit, we can accomplish much and overcome much.
Our Unity co-founders, Myrtle and Charles Fillmore overcame illness and poverty with a great faith that gave them sustaining hope. When they led the beginnings of their spiritual community, they had setbacks, but never gave up because of their faith.
In the book, “Let God Help You,” which is a compilation of Myrtle’s writings, Myrtle states “God is All Good, All Power, All Wisdom, All Presence.” She often speaks of Truth with a capital T and the Truth that God is Spirit within us ever present, all powerful, all wise.
Myrtle speaks of God as Life, Love, and Divine Mind. Her advice is to listen to the voice of God within us to be led to the Truth that we are good, wise and powerful. She suggests that we can be led to new ways of thinking and living… a transformation of consciousness because we are endowed with Divine ideas, the most important and powerful things in the universe.
Our Divine ideas have their origin from Divine Mind, which is God, our Source. And this is how we transmute the negative to positive energy. We overcome with Divine ideas and hope. With prayer and meditation, Myrtle claimed her oneness with God, and encourages us to do the same. With the knowledge of Truth, we can have peace of mind, health of body and always create new possibilities!
Brother Sheindi-Rest, who is a Benedictine monk, an interfaith spiritual leader and founder of a global organization, Network for Grateful Living, teaches that faith is a courageous trust in life. He states that a deep trust in life is not a feeling, but a stance that you deliberately take. It is an attitude of courage in the face of challenges. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we have some control in how circumstances impact us with our attitude.
Myrtle Fillmore taught we can be free of worry if we follow Truth Principles, trust the power and presence of God within and turn any self- defeating thoughts into an affirmation of life, strength and faith. This is the foundation of Unity. We are not promised that that our life will always be easy, but we are promised that the presence of God and Spirit is always with us.
We can shift our thoughts from the ever- changing rhythms of life and align with Spirit at any time. We can choose to see situations in the outer world as temporary conditions, and affirm that our future is unlimited, contrary to any circumstance that may appear otherwise. This is what hope is. This what trusting in life is… trusting that our future is unlimited.
You may be familiar with the book, Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl who was a psychiatrist and Holocaust Survivor. It is a profound book on maintaining hope in a most difficult time of suffering…living in a Nazi concentration camp.
This is a quote from his book: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms- is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. As a prisoner in unthinkable circumstances, he strived to keep an attitude of hope and helped other people around him be as hopeful as possible. He writes that when we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. He suggested that we adopt a courageous attitude in a situation of unavoidable suffering. He called this an Attitudinal Value.
In Unity, we practice an attitude of hopefulness with what we call affirmative prayer… first connecting with the spirit of God and secondly asserting positive beliefs about the desired outcomes…the good that is already here and now.
This is an example of Affirmative Prayer: “Divine Spirit, I am grateful for the spirit of wisdom and love within me, and know I am guided to blessings of peace, health and prosperity. Beginning with gratitude and affirming guidance, peace, health and prosperity. And then, I pray and trust that my highest and best good is manifesting in my life with Divine Order here and now.
This is the method of affirmative prayer that Jesus taught in Mark 11:24 when he said, “I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
As we believe we have power over our thoughts and attitudes, we believe in Unity that we create our experiences by our thoughts and feelings. A spiritual tool for keeping our thoughts positive and therefore creating a positive life path is the use of Affirmations and Denials.
Denials help us turn away from negative thinking and encourage us to not give power to any self-sabotage. When we have a negative thought about ourselves or a circumstance, we can catch ourselves and not give it attention. We can replace a negative thought with a positive affirmation.
So, if we are feeling overwhelmed by a situation, we can say to ourselves, I can handle this with confidence. We can say this is temporary and I am hopeful that a solution is around the corner.
For health issues, we can say the cells in my tissues and organs are working together for my healing.
For prosperity, we can say I greet each day with gratitude for the many possibilities that await me.
For affirmations to be effective, they need to be stated in the present, with an affirming message and a message that feels true to you. Affirmations can be stated simply and when repeated can make a difference in shifting our consciousness to places of hopefulness to help us create what we want and need in our lives. Affirmations help keep our thoughts positive and our hearts open.
Another tool for creating positive energy is meditation. I like to think of meditation as resting with the breath. There are many methods, but basically it is becoming conscious of the in breath and the out breath and gently turning attention to the inner self, allowing thoughts and feelings to pass without attaching or judging …accepting those thoughts and feelings.
Meditation can lead us to the Silence which is a deeper state where oneness with Divine Presence is experienced. Practicing meditation can help us feel more peaceful and hopeful as does the practice of mindfulness, which is staying in the moment as much as possible. When we are in the awareness of the present moment, we are not thinking of the past or the future. We can feel the joy and the peace of our innate spirit, and this helps us stay hopeful.
And, yet there are times when we feel anger, fear, sadness, grief which we need to honor and have a healthy outlet for expressing and releasing these feelings. As part of a healing process, we may need to cry, reach out to someone who can compassionately listen. What we don’t want to do is stay stuck in the energy of anger, fear, blame and hopelessness.
Instead of reacting, we can take a deep breath and choose peace and hope. Holding difficult emotions in mindful awareness without attachment is a Buddhist practice.
Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron who wrote the book “When Things Fall Apart” advises us to learn to relax with the groundlessness in our lives. She writes, “Whatever arises, breathe it in without pushing the feelings away or running away. Breathe it in with loving compassion for yourself and for others experiencing the same pain. Breathe out slowly, letting go of the struggle.” A relaxed state of mind in the midst of uncertainty can certainly help us feel more hopeful as we release anxiety and invite loving kindness to ourselves and others. Chodron also writes, “We can use everything that happens to us to help us wake up spiritually.”
Our Spiritual Director at my One Spirit Seminary would often tell us that the experiences that were challenges for us were ones which evolve our soul. Every encounter and every experience can help us grow on our spiritual journey.
When and how have you been drawn to hope for the challenges in your life? As a young adult and single parent, I often needed to draw from a wellspring of optimism to remind myself that I could provide for my son and look to the future with hope for him and myself.
In my middle years, hope and optimism helped me recover from cancer…I had affirmations of hope and strength all over my hospital room and in my home.
In my aging years, I use hope to remind myself and affirm that I am healthy and living a fulfilling life with purpose… with love and peace. I begin every day with prayer and the Unity Daily Word, and I use other spiritual readings to keep my spirit uplifted.
Today, I am grateful for all the people who have helped others in this pandemic. This makes me feel hopeful about the innate goodness of human beings and our feeling of kindship and unity with one another.
I am hopeful for our spiritual community as Sandy and our Board work to keep us sustainable and moving forward.
I am inspired and made hopeful by the young people and grassroots movements that are demanding change for racial and social justice, equality, freedom from violence and attention to saving our planet earth from climate change.
Today, I am hopeful that in spite of challenges, we will reclaim our democracy. A very capable woman and person of color has been chosen as a candidate for Vice President of our country. This makes me feel hopeful.
I feel hopeful that less than three weeks after the death of George Floyd, officials across the nation introduced or passed sweeping unprecedented reforms against police violence and racial injustice. In August, Governor Carney signed into law legislation that bans the use of chokeholds by law enforcement in the state of DE. This ban is part of a set of reforms that have been proposed to address systemic racism in Delaware’s criminal justice system. This makes me feel hopeful.
Imbued with the capacity to demonstrate love and faith, we can all be agents of positive change. We can use our life to express our divine qualities for the betterment of ourselves and other people.
“Our potential is always bigger than our problems” is a quote that I like from Michael Beckwith of the Agape Spiritual Center.
We can decide to never give up as John Lewes exemplified and implored us to do.
Martin Luther King told us to never lose hope for our dreams and aspirations. He also said we need action…not only faith, and Mother Teresa said faith in action is love and service.
Barack Obama exclaims that the audacity of hope is hope in the face of difficulty and uncertainty. He states, “Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, work for it and fight for it. President Obama says that the best way not to feel hopeless is to get up and do something!
And Michelle Obama advices us to make decisions based upon hope and possibility, not fear. That sounds like Unity doesn’t it?
In the book, Unity Metaphysics, our twelve spiritual powers are explored. These powers are “the fundamental and innate aspects of our divine nature.”
Faith is the first power and is described as the “spiritual assurance and power to do the seemingly impossible. A deep knowing that which is sought is already ours …the assurance of things hoped for.”
Strength is the second spiritual power which is “the faculty of steadfastness, endurance, spiritual courage and confidence. It is the calm, God-centered attitude of mind.”
So, I hope you are finding ways to be in that God-centered attitude of mind. I hope you are feeling strength of spirit and finding ways to keep your spirit uplifted and hopeful…. getting out in nature, reaching out to people you love and care about, giving a helping hand where you can, planning to use your personal power to vote.
On that important topic, you can go to Vote.org for information on registering to vote, getting an absentee ballot and other questions about voting.
I want to close with this thought. Hope is a vibration of energy that comes from our Divine Spirit and keeping a hopeful perspective with others helps encourage their sense of hopefulness. Hopefulness has a ripple effect. When we trust in life and trust in Source with gratitude, goodness and the grace of hope flows in our lives.
May you dwell in Possibility. Amen
I found some very interesting and insightful quotes this past week. Tell me what you think:
It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.
Heaven and hell is right now. … You make it heaven or you make it hell by your actions.
We are not these bodies, just souls having a bodily experience.
Once you realize something, then you can’t pretend you don’t know it anymore.
The more I go inside, the more there is to see.
What do you think? Some famous Unity writer or Minister? Some Eastern Guru?
No – it’s our 4th and final Beatle, George Harrison. Pretty amazing. He embraced Indian culture and helped broaden the scope of popular music through his incorporation of Indian instrumentation and Hindu-aligned spirituality in the Beatles’ work.
When his mother was pregnant with George, she often listened to the weekly broadcast Radio India. Harrison’s biographer Joshua Greene wrote, “Every Sunday she tuned in to mystical sounds evoked by sitars, hoping that the exotic music would bring peace and calm to the baby in the womb.”
Do you think it influenced George’s interest in Indian music? Could be….
And surely the influence of Eastern philosophy affected his interest in Hinduism.
If we recall Unity’s history, Charles Fillmore studied the major cultures and religions of the time while working through his Unity Philosophy. We can see that influence in our philosophy and principles.
George was the youngest Beatle, born in 1943. He was known as “the quiet Beatle”. That nick name arose when the Beatles arrived in the United States in early 1964, and Harrison was ill with a case of Strep throat and a fever. He was medically advised to limit speaking as much as possible until the performance on The Ed Sullivan Show as scheduled. As such, the press noticed Harrison’s quiet nature in public appearances and the subsequent nickname stuck.
Of course, we know George was an English musician, singer, songwriter, and music and film producer who achieved international fame as the lead guitarist of the Beatles.
Although the majority of the band’s songs were written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, most Beatles albums from 1965 onwards contained at least two Harrison compositions. His songs for the group include “Taxman”, “Within You Without You”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something”.
Eventually, in 1965, he had begun to lead the Beatles into folk rock through his interest in Bob Dylan and the Byrds, and towards Indian classical music through his use of the sitar on “Norwegian Wood”. Having initiated the band’s embracing of Transcendental Meditation in 1967, he subsequently developed an association with the Hare Krishna movement.
His triple album All Things Must Pass, was a critically acclaimed work that produced his most successful hit single, “My Sweet Lord”.
Harrison organized the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh, a precursor to later benefit concerts such as Live Aid.
In 1988, he co-founded the platinum-selling supergroup the Traveling Wilburys. A prolific recording artist, he was featured as a guest guitarist on tracks by Badfinger, Ronnie Wood and Billy Preston, and collaborated on songs and music with Dylan, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and Tom Petty, among others. Rolling Stone magazine ranked him number 11 in their list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.
Like the other Beatles, he is a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee – as a member of the Beatles in 1988, and posthumously for his solo career in 2004.
Harrison died from lung cancer in 2001 at the age of 58, two years after surviving a knife attack by an intruder. His remains were cremated and the ashes were scattered according to Hindu tradition in a private ceremony in the Ganges and Yamuna rivers in India.
Harrison has so many really great quotes. Once again, the theme of peace and love is evident in what the Beatles as a group and as individual members stood for.
“Since our problems have been our own creation. They also can be overcome.
When we use the power provided free to everyone, This is love!”
A little understanding of “As you sow, so shall you reap” is important, because then you can’t blame the condition you’re in on anyone else.
The Past is gone, and the future might not even be, the only thing we ever experience is the now, I try to enjoy the minute.
It is an outrage that people can take other people’s lives when they obviously haven’t got their own lives in order.
Death is just where your suit falls off and now, you’re in your other suit. You can’t see it on this level, but it’s all right. Don’t worry.
Love one another (His last words)