RACISM AS IT STANDS



Racial tension between people of different background, heritage, religion, social status etc. is not a new thing to civilization.  Racism probably dates back to the origins of Western civilization, if not even earlier.  

“Racism is the belief in the superiority of one race over another, which often results in discrimination and prejudice towards people based on their race or ethnicity.

The ideology underlying racist practices often includes the idea that humans can be subdivided into distinct groups that are different due to their social behavior and their innate capacities as well as the idea that they can be ranked as inferior or superior.” (wikipedia)

To really understand the underlying logic that propels one person to treat another as less than, we must first understand how we have all come to possess some level of perceived inferiority, which took root early on in our childhood.  As we compared ourselves or more likely were being compared to others, in certain traits, skills, achievements etc., we learned that we did not have equal measure in certain areas. We also learned that the value attached to these traits are far from equal.  This has led to a faulty conclusion that the sum of these traits sets our value as a person of superior/inferior quality.  

Thom Hartman in his book "LAST DAYS OF ANCIENT SUNLIGHT" points out that in older cultures it was perfectly acceptable, if not desirable to be different and to retain a separate identity.  "Those differences did not imply superiority, inferiority, or power...but enhanced diversity."  In nature, this is critical to the health of the ecosystem.  He further goes to warn, that our culture's mind-set of a racial divide with somebody on top and others on the bottom, is presenting real and tragic consequences.    

Adler helps us understand how we've come to this dilemma through our own perceived inferiority.  A belief, accepted early on, that I am not enough.  That sense that you did not quite measure up in one or several areas.  Often this feeling continues to be perpetuated when we feel somehow subdued or pushed down later on in life.  In school by someone stronger or more popular, on the job by a boss, economically by our circumstances, in our own family even.  Consequently, we come to believe that this meant our worth as a human being, our value to humanity and the greater universe, was questioned.  Mistakenly, we believe our rightful place in the world as equals is not a "given" and possibly in peril.   We  then set out to prove that we do have the right to sit at the table, amongst equals.  How do we get there?  We have to compete for it!  We each develop our own unique way and style.  Sadly in most cases, being enough is not enough.  If I cannot be more than, I risk being less than, therefore I must crush someone. 

Racism stems directly from that very place of not feeling good enough and the need to be better than.  As long as we can convince ourselves that someone is below us (in any way we imagine: skin color, religion, social status, sex, IQ...  ~ you name it) we can at least have the confidence that we are not the one on the bottom.  Even among groups that are of the same origin, sex, religion etc. people will look for differences in one another in order to elevate themselves, just so as not to feel less than.  Every group has some type of leveling system and in some instances, one has no helpful way to alter one's position, other than defeat those 'above' them.  

Violence is born out of this very idea of needing to be superior and thereby disprove one's perceived or assigned place of inferiority.  Only when one feels threatened does one feel the need to fight back.  However when we fight back we create a vicious cycle of crush or be crushed.  We are not addressing the underlying problem and we are only getting further away from finding a solution.   

If we want to understand racism, we must first come to understand our own need to be more than and resolve any feelings of less than.  We need to get back to the idea that our differences make us who we are, and who we are is enough.  Our greatest contributions in creativity, innovation, invention etc. are all born out of this diversity.

The only way we can solve any problem is come together and realize that no matter where we stand at the bottom or at the top we all have the same fear: ending up at the bottom.  Equality will be difficult to come by unless we can give up the notion that we must gain the upper hand to feel enough.  


 "We are the change we want to see in the world” (Ghandi).   It  ultimately falls to us to make the change within ourselves, which is all we have real control over.      

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