Sunday, August 17, 2014

Racial Division

"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."  


  1. So true Paul. John 17:20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

    21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

    The oneness of all is the sublime truth from which all right ways of relating to others emerges. The three are one: God, Christ and mankind. That is the reality represented by the Christ event and spoken of in parables by Jesus. When this is forgotten all kinds of evil is likely to happen. Christianity meant nothing to me until I came to recognize this. How can we love our neighbor as our self? I used to say it is obvious he is not me. But in Christ that is all explained. I came to think this uniting of all in God is what the atonement actually means. At-One-Ment. We are all one. it is much different that what I was taught, but it makes sense alongside the teaching of Christ and Buddha.

    Of course other people exist in the same way you and I exist and in the face of others is seen the face of God. I guess that is the fellowship of the mystery Paul spoke of.


    1. A wonderful and insightful description of "at-one-ment." …thanks friend.

    2. And thank you Paul for provoking my thoughts.