Ending Racism: Our Key Struggle

From a Talk by Tim Jackins at the Worldwide Conference

First: the ending of racism, especially white racism, especially against people of African heritage, is the key struggle of this period. This doesn’t mean that it is more important than other struggles but that it plays a particular role in confusing us in almost every struggle. It functions as a wedge issue to confuse, restimulate, and split up people in the struggles they undertake. It’s the key issue for society and for the Co-Counseling Communities.

We have done well in many areas, and we have worked hard in this one. But we haven’t quite proved ourselves fully. We haven’t yet accomplished things that ring in every mind and say, “Yes, this shows we can.” I think this is the issue we need to take as our proof of our abilities and intentions.

Second: we can do it. I think we can do it now. We have struggled in this battle for years within Co-Counseling, and before. For most of us, it is still a hard battle. You know the feel of this battle. You don’t feel like you’ve gotten somewhere that you can be proud of, where you can feel that what you’ve accomplished will stay if you don’t keep your attention on it all the time. We’re still in the midst of that struggle, but we won’t stay there. We will move to where we will have accomplished something we can count on.

Why have we stayed there? It is not simply because of the failing of individuals. Racism is hammered on each one of us every day, over and over again, with very little contradiction available. It has been installed through centuries of mistreatment. We were born into societies in which this mistreatment and confusion was considered normal. If we were fortunate enough to have someone around us who questioned it, it was usually dismissed quickly. It is that big of a struggle.

It has also been that hard because of what oppressive societies do to everyone. Oppressive societies can continue to exist because they hurt every person so badly that almost everyone feels like he or she would not survive one more blow. People are afraid to move for fear that there’ll be one more defeat and that will be the end of them. Society, as it is, continues to exist if it can push almost everyone to that edge and balance them there, so that they are isolated and afraid to move because it feels like their existence is at stake. That is what has happened to us. Each one of us is pushed to that edge. We are so accustomed to this that we don’t acknowledge it to each other.

Within Co-Counseling we can be hopeful, and we should be, because we understand how to get off that edge. But we can’t pretend that we don’t still have to take on this fight. You are all excellent counselors. You all have better lives than you expected, through your own work and the lucky circumstance of getting this information. You can hold directions against the demons in the back of your minds and not believe them a good percentage of the time. But what are the distresses you oppose but haven’t yet been able to move out into the open where they can be discharged? What is in there when you wake alone in the middle of the night? Those are the things we have to turn to and work on in order to make this move.

We have to look realistically at the full nature of this struggle against racism and try not to go on simply holding those distresses out of direct sight because we are so scared to stop and face the feeling that we’re about to be crushed by those distresses. We are not about to be crushed by our distresses. Those of us in this room are not about to be crushed by this society. We do have lots of recordings that say that. It is hard for us to tell where we are in these struggles because of that restimulation.

Every white person needs to take on the elimination of racism for himself or herself. This is not about getting someone to act better. This is about freeing ourselves from parasitic distress recordings. We may not always be able to tell the difference between ourselves and these distress recordings, but there is always a very real difference. We have gotten so used to the recordings that we have difficulty believing they are not us. None of us wants to believe that these recordings are us, but the restimulation can lead to confusion and it becomes difficult to separate the distress from the human.

No white person is going to get anything like a full life unless he or she removes racist recordings from his or her mind. There are lots of other reasons to do it, too. It is horrible, it is unjust. Horrible things have happened and left reactive legacies that hurt and confuse billions of people.

Every human being is vulnerable to distress recordings, and when an oppressive society stumbles upon a distress recording that keeps the society going, it gets put on everybody that exists in that society. You didn’t choose this. There is not some evil, bad choice you made back there. This was pushed upon you—simply by existing at this stage in history. At the same time, though it is not your fault, no one can remove it from you but you. No one else has the control of your mind to do that work except you. No one can liberate your mind from this parasite, from this distress pattern, except you. You can do that.

It has been slow because everyone is pushed to that edge and is terrified. It has been slow because white Co-Counselors have some idea that they have racist patterns and try desperately not to show them. And each racist incident, near us or far away, seen personally or brought to us from halfway around the globe, scares us—because as we grew up we got the same distresses pushed on us. We have fought against it, we have thought against it, we have discharged on it, and we still have big pieces of it and are scared it will get away from us, get out of our control.

This is the little dance we white people do around people of color, in which we try desperately to hold down every hint of our own racism so it doesn’t lash out—partly because we couldn’t bear it personally and partly because we don’t want anybody else affected by it. It isn’t just self-preservation. There is some good intent. It’s the choice we often saw our parents make—to hold the distress down rather than play it out fully. So it is not a surprise that we have that pattern. But what it looks like to a person of color may be quite different. It doesn’t hide the fact that we have racist distresses. It doesn’t hide it at all. That best effort can end up being racist in effect, because, though the person of color may not know exactly what the distress is, he or she knows we are hiding something racist.

Where we feel we can’t think our way through this distress, we often try to hold it out of the way. It doesn’t work that well, but a lot of us hope to survive on that. We just hope to get through our lives without acting out our worst distress. We hope to keep it out of the way, but this is not enough. It is not enough because it hides reality. It hides the reality of the struggle we have to face, and it also severely limits our lives.

All white people need to hear and know, over and over again, that there will be a time when we no longer have racist patterns, that we get to choose that future for ourselves. This means more things than we can imagine. It means a change in our perspectives, a change in our relationships. It means being at ease in the world. It means having some real sense that we belong here, that our existence is not a blight upon the earth. These feelings are tied up with racism for many of us.

None of our racist distress recordings are accurate or true, yet because they came in from the first of our days, it is hard to have a picture of them, it is hard to admit to them, it is hard not to believe them, and it is hard to believe that everyone else doesn’t believe them, especially people of color. However, all of these recordings are untrue. We must create a place within Co-Counseling (and outside, as we do more and better work) where it is safe enough to look at these distresses we hide, a place where we can get them out in the open, where we can admit to each other that we have horrible distresses that no person should ever have had thrust upon him or her. We’re waiting for somebody to remember it and say, “So what? You are still here. It doesn’t matter to me what battles you have to take on. You matter to me! Let’s begin those battles. Tell me how scared you get, tell me how distant you feel, tell me how helpless. Tell me the mistakes you can’t forget. It will not change my picture of you. I know who you are, and I will not forget you in any struggle you have to take on.” 

We have this job in front of us now. We have to state the importance of eliminating racism and create the conditions in which people dare to admit to having that struggle and start to pick up a corner of its cover so a little can show and be worked on.

We give up a large part of ourselves until we can work on our oppressor role distresses. White people come from long lines of good people who came out of Europe, who struggled hard, had their confusions, discarded some of them, and carried some with them. And we still carry the scars of those undiscarded ones. They were good people who struggled to make progress, made important strides, contributed to the world, mattered, and will continue to matter. We get to bless those ancestors and curse the distresses that were foisted upon them. We get to fight to clean up what they left to us and make sure as little distress as possible goes on to the next generation.

Let me repeat a couple of things. I think that the ending of racism—especially against people of African heritage, especially within the U.S.—is the key issue of this period. Racism is the distress that confuses the most people on many other issues and that divides people. It doesn’t mean it is the most important issue. It is the key issue now. There’s a difference. Moving this one makes all the others more accessible so they can be thought about, worked on, and moved. These issues are just as important. Everyone’s struggles are just as important, but there are times when pulling on one loosens the rest, and I think this is one of those times.

It is entirely possible for us to do this work now—with just us in this room to begin with. This work is not about cleaning up someone else. It is about us cleaning up ourselves. Each one of us will be in charge of cleaning ourselves up, as will each person we reach. We can create the conditions for doing this work, and the best way to create those conditions is to first do the work on ourselves. Doing this work on ourselves is for the benefit of our entire species, including ourselves personally. This work is necessary for us to be able to connect with each other in a way that will never be threatened again.

We cannot avoid this work. We do not get to survive the rest of our lives with this distress. That is past being a choice on the path we’ve chosen. We have to understand that. It’s not a choice we have, period. We don’t get to stay quiet and keep this distress hidden away. It is impossible for us to carry this distress and have all of the things we want and fight so hard for. The choice we get to make is to face racism and take it on in full battle, knowing we can conquer it, knowing that it is not part of us and has never been part of us.

It is all right to love and be committed to someone with a racist pattern. It is all right to recognize his or her existence as dear and valuable and important. Having racist distress does not negate that. It makes it tougher for those of us with undischarged patterns to see and remember the human underneath, but we have that struggle everywhere.

We have done a lot of work. We’ve done good work. We’ve done mediocre work. We’ve done poor work. We’ve done all sorts of work. That’s important. We don’t have to know exactly how to do good work at the beginning. We have to start. We can think and make our efforts and mistakes out in the open. There isn’t a mistake that we can’t figure out and use as an opportunity in the process of discharging this distress. Silence and inaction, however, don’t lead to anything except more confusion and to suffering with our distresses longer.

We won’t be sure we know what we are doing in this struggle until we do a lot more work. This is not a mistake; it is not our failing. That’s the way it is now. We can’t wait for it to be different. It won’t be different until we get to work. We may simply have to feel like we are blundering. It is the effort, and the decision to make continued efforts, which matters most at the beginning—that we not believe the discouraging tones of our distresses.

How do we make sure this work accelerates and doesn’t just barely survive—that it moves into the center of the Communities? That’s what has to happen. Ending racism has to be recognized as the central struggle in the Communities. How do we make that happen? How does each one of us figure out how to work on it consistently enough that we can keep hopeful, that we can see it move? How can we find allies to do that with? In my mind, each of us needs at least two allies. It is confusing to try to do it by ourselves—even with one other person. It’s going to take at least three of us committed to irritating each other if necessary so that we consistently work, and remind, and support, going after whatever is in there. The important things I want to say once more: One, this is key, this is central now. We don’t get to avoid it. No Community gets to avoid it. Two, we can take this on and conquer it.


Last modified: 2014-10-06 19:10:31+00