"Blue Skies, Summer Days"
The issue of race has once again surfaced in our national psyche in the United States, as day after day we are immersed in those ugly images of white people confronting black people on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. The shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman has opened a "pandora's box" of seething racial tension - police officers (mostly white) riding in tanks and looking more like soldiers pointing weapons at angry (mostly black) enraged protesters vowing to seek justice for the death of Michael Brown no matter what the cost.
When I see the images and hear the stories out of Ferguson, Missouri - a "State of Emergency," a midnight curfew, stores being looted, fire bombs hurled, it looks like Watts or Selma and I feel like I'm back in the 1960's once again.
The events in Missouri have sparked a great deal of national dialogue over the issue of "race," but interestingly enough the one thing I almost never hear mentioned is that, in essence,"race" is a myth, "race" doesn't even exist.
In her newly published book, A Dreadful Deceit: the Myth of Race, award-winning History Professor, Jacqueline Jones, offers some very insightful commentary:
"Race" is an entirely spurious concept, "race" itself is a fiction, one that has no basis in biology or any long standing consistent usage in human culture.
The ubiquity of the term "race" in modern discourse indicates that early twenty-first century Americans adhere to this myth with remarkable tenacity. In fact it is a social fiction stemming from the era of America's national origins when the white elite concocted ideas of racial difference as a way to explain why a whole group of people were excluded from the body politic.
Today's cutting-edge DNA research has clearly established that "all" human beings are so genetically close that we are all "one" race. Furthermore today's molecular anthropologists have also demonstrated that no "race" or ethnic group is ever entirely "pure"- all human beings are complex mixtures of multiple historical cultures, tribes and peoples.
"Race" is little more than an arbitrary classification imposed on a continuum of physical differences, and yet we continue to talk and act as if "race" actually exists; we continue to perpetuate the myth. And so black people and white people, armed and ready, angrily confront one another on a city street when in fact they "are" one another.
As I see it, our problem with "race" in America is essentially a spiritual problem. People perpetuate the "myth of race" because they believe in the "myth of ego" and act as if a separated isolated self actually exists when in fact it doesn't.
The path of any spiritual journey points us to the wisdom that all of us are "interbeing." We are a web of dynamic relationships and we all "belong" to one another as we make our way on the road of life.
A Zen wisdom saying comes to mind:
The true person is not anyone in particular;
but like the deep blue color of the limitless sky,
the true person is everyone - everyone in the world.
There is no black and white among those folks on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. Their color is "blue."