Ending Racism—Making It Happen

Tim Jackins

All of us have been made to feel insignificant. We have been made to feel that we can’t play a big role in things, that we aren’t important. These hurts are inflicted on us early in our lives. They keep us from doing the things we want to do and are capable of doing. They push us to give up our big hopes and our big dreams. They have us settle for limited goals.


When people get hurt badly enough, when the oppressions build up enough, we stop trying to change things. We just try to survive them. You know what you wanted as a child. You wanted everything. If something wasn’t right, you knew it should be different, and you wanted that. Maybe you were someone who rebelled and kept this spark alive through your teens or even your twenties. It may have gotten more and more rigid, more and more desperate, but you tried to keep it alive.

Distresses are installed on all of us. We are made to feel that what we want for ourselves and the world is impossible, that we are too small, too powerless, too insignificant, too alone, to make it happen. Because we can’t seem to figure out how to communicate with others to find out if that spark is still alive in them, each person feels like it is just him or her, alone. At some point, most of us stop trying to change things and instead just try to make it through.1 Often there’s a hope that the next generation will do what we wanted to do. Maybe they’ll take it a little farther, maybe we’ve improved things enough for them that they’ll fight and take some steps we didn’t manage to take.

All of this settling for less is distress. It’s familiar to most of us, whether or not we ourselves play it out.2 We have seen it. We saw it in our folks3; we saw it in the people around us. All of it is distress recordings, and all of it can be discharged. There really are no limits, ever, to what minds get to try and to do—as long as we keep finding ways to strip off the corrosion of our distresses.


We are taking on4 the battle to get each other back fully. As a Community we’ve chosen to not only battle against, but to end, racism. It has to actually end. It’s a distress recording. It can be ended. I think we can end it in this century. We can stop it from dominating the behavior of our species and our societies.

We know how to begin this work, and we know it can be done. But we have to get good at creating the conditions under which people can actually discharge what they’ve been saddled with.5 We haven’t yet been consistently able to do that.

A big part of the task is creating safety. For those who’ve been targeted by racism, this means getting RC ideas to a large enough group of targeted people that they get a sense of using RC for themselves, not just as part of a larger, mixed community. This is happening, but not yet easily. The safety to face racism comes when enough people have worked on, and gained some perspective on, what it’s been like to be targeted. There have to be good allies outside the group, but there also have to be enough people in the group that it becomes safe to open up and look. This is beginning to happen in more and more Communities.


The next step is for people who’ve been targeted to get enough discharge to be able to talk openly about their internalized oppression.6 This is harder. They can feel like they’re attacking their allies. What are we worried about when we bring up certain distresses and work on them? A lot of us worry that our counselors will get restimulated and not be able to tell the difference between us and our distresses, that they’ll become horrified with what we’re trying to work on and that our relationships with them will become shaky. There’s work to be done to create the safety and the relationships needed to make counseling on internalized oppression go consistently well.


Those of us at the oppressor end of racism have a big job to do. Racism is our distress material. It’s our job to discharge it. It’s nobody else’s job. It’s not our fault that we have the distress; we shouldn’t believe any recorded feelings of guilt about having it, but nobody but us can undo that layer of corrosion on our minds. If we are to have the lives we really want, we’re going to have to tackle it. No one else can change our minds.

We are trying to get ourselves free enough to do our own real thinking. We are confident that when we get out of our distresses, we will think well, be in agreement, and care about each other. That has been our experience. We don’t worry about that. We don’t tell each other how we should think. Instead, we try to create the conditions under which we can discharge our distresses so that we can think.

We have complete faith in human minds. It isn’t going to work any other way. We have to help each other discharge and think better, and then we have to sit down together and trade information so we understand what the world is like. We’ll run into the places where we haven’t discharged, and by discharging there we’ll get in better and better communication and agreement with each other.

This works well when we can create the right conditions. That’s what we’re doing now. Those of us who carry oppressor distresses feel badly that we’ve been put in this position, and these feelings stop many of us from moving. That’s why we’re trying to make eliminating racism part of the fabric of RC right from the beginning, from fundamentals classes. We want people to know from the beginning that we understand and that we’ll help them create the conditions to free themselves from racism.

Nobody wants to carry these distresses. Nobody in the oppressor role wants to be there. Anytime people have any hope of success, they‘ll work like hell to get out of these distresses. What’s been missing is any idea that there’s a chance to get out of them, any hopefulness about it, any picture that they can undo these distresses and be free of them. Whether it’s their fourth week or their fortieth year of Co-Counseling, if people glimpse getting free of their distresses, they’ll want to work on them.

That’s a big part of the struggle at this moment: people in the oppressor role fighting the battle to talk about what we carry and to contradict how badly we feel about ourselves. We have to get out in the open all the effects of the racism we carry. We have to show, in sessions, all the distresses that were pushed on us, that pushed us into the oppressor role. We have to be able to talk about all of our racist “thoughts,” all of the racist things we saw done, and may have done ourselves.

We also need to think about the white people who aren’t with us because they’re not able to hide their racism—the ones who make overtly racist remarks, who aren’t able to control the distresses they carry so that those distresses are playing7 out in the open all the time. They are just like us, with a slightly different version of the same distresses. They are no less intelligent than we are. They are probably no more hurt than we are. Think about standing next to someone as he or she does overtly racist things. Think about what you would have to battle, what you would have to do, in order to stay thinking and move that situation forward. Think about how you would interrupt that behavior, and reach the person who is trapped in that recording. Notice how much you’d want to run away and say, “I am not like that. I don’t have that material.” We do have that material. Not the same version, but we have that material.


Racism saps8 our minds. It keeps us from having the relationships we want and from going out and taking on the challenges of life. All of us who are white have this material. In some fundamental sense, it’s okay that we have it. We are all right—just as we are—with all of our distresses, including the racism, sexism, and so on. It’s perfectly all right that at this moment it’s this way. This is the way things developed. This is where we are. There’s no way it could have been different, or it would have been different. That was the way it was. But it’s not all right for it to stay that way.

Now we have choices. Now we can handle it. The past was all right—horrible and hard and difficult and confused, and all right. And now we get to take it and guide it somewhere, thoughtfully. We now have the tools and the resources and the ability and the intelligence to make that happen. We have this opportunity. Quite literally, you have this to do. I don’t mean you alone. The RC Communities are learning to make it happen consistently in many different situations, in many different Communities, and with different levels of experience.

1 Make it through means survive.
2 Play it out means act it out.
3 Folks means parents.
4 Taking on means assuming an active role in.
5 Saddled with means encumbered with.
6 Internalized oppression is the result of having been hurt so much by the external oppression that one believes the negative (in this case, racist) messages about oneself and one’s group, and acts them out.
7 Playing means being acted out.
8 Saps means undermines, exhausts.


Last modified: 2014-08-22 20:15:17+00