Humans are sensitive machines.
When Power decided to enable commerce through the sale and enslavement of people, the Slaver Race needed to develop a narrative that let them reconcile their natural horror and revulsion with the reality in which they participated. They needed to not believe in the consciousness and pain of the enslaved. They needed to see them as lesser, incapable of true enlightened thought, insensitive to their treatment, in order to stifle the natural impediment of empathy. A reprogramming of brains over generations.
But just believing in the inferiority of the enslaved was not enough. To participate in a system so cruel, people who benefited from slavery didn't just need to cognitively believe that the enslaved were less human, less conscious, less sensitive - they also needed to hate them, to see them as deserving their treatment. Otherwise, the emotional dissonance between decency and slavery would feel unbearable. They needed to stifle, dampen, and if possible, eradicate the empathy that caused them pain and doubt. They needed to believe they were right, and even more, to feel that they were right. It was a primal need, the needs of id, ego and superego colliding, synapses formed and reinforced, primal need for social acceptance engaged and imposed; nurtured bigotry becoming nature, passing in the evolutionary data that defines the starting place for any human being born. Many people born pre-programmed with a tendency to smother empathy, to inhabit a mindset of superiority.
It's not just attitude, it's not a decision to be a hateful person. Racism is bred in the blood, bones and brains through generations of severe and extreme programming that dampened the human responses that might have made slavery impossible.
Reclaiming empathy, reclaiming understanding of the glory and importance in every life, relearning how to see and categorize the world of 7 billion people - it's not just something people can individually decide to do, or not. It's something that must rise among us, between us, within us, called by us, welcomed in us, expressed and shared for all of us, over time. For some, this feels like freedom, like joy. For others, it can be incredibly painful to re-see and re-interpret everything we've ever unconsciously accepted. It can feel like judgment, like tearing down, like violence. No wonder so many people reject any idea that makes them this uncomfortable. Their egos protect them with anger, hurt, outrage, smugness, and a host of other mechanisms that all of us accidentally use to keep us safe from noticing what might hurt to notice.
All of this to say: turning hatred on hate is like putting gasoline in your fire hose.
A person living with an ideology of active racism is like a person with any emotional-cognitive approach that doesn't match the desired consensus view of equality. Where they are coming from feels unacceptable to us, but how they got there isn't just a choice they made, it's the culmination of many factors, manifesting through individuals. Finding our own empathy is a challenge in the face of hatred, but it's our test first, before we can begin to shift anyone else.
Instead of anti-hate, we can focus on pro-love, and face what that means, to love an "enemy."
|Out of the Jaws of Death |
(from the "No Dead Trees" series)
reading the dead
but, why read the living?
they barely feel our heat
so caught up in day to day
so far away, encased in other meat;
oh, but the dead!
close, poised and waiting, longing,
needing to be read
our eyes and hearts and minds their only lifeline, borrowed truth
their words mere marks their works reduced
to just what catches our attention, snags us from distraction;
the dead become obsessed anticipation
starved clanging for participation with what they've left behind.
and so I read the dead,
for who else will commune with me so perfectly; say, see,
see what I meant?