The Discharge of Patterns of White Racism
by White Co-Counselors

—Harvey Jackins

The overwhelming majority of human beings in the world have skin-colors other than white (or more accurately "pink"). All colors of human skin are lovely and the variety is very pleasing to rational humans.

There are some indications that the white or pink-skinned variety of humans arose as a result of a migration of darker-skinned people to the northern regions of the continent of Eurasia where the dark winters and the summer cloud cover made it impossible for people with darker skins to absorb enough sunlight to manufacture sufficient vitamin D in their skin cells for healthy functioning. The vitamin-deficiency disease of rickets became widespread and the resulting deformities of the pelvis made it impossible for the women to bear children. Under this kind of evolutionary pressure unusually fair-skinned people had a great survival advantage in that their fair skins absorbed more sunlight, they produced more vitamin D, and many more of them were able to bear children. Thus, a "white" variety of humans evolved and were able to colonize the less-sunlit regions of the continent.

From a long-range point of view, it was probably accidental that these white-skinned regions were in the forefront of the development of industry with the resulting capacity of their owning classes to create advanced weapons and take the lead in the imperialist domination of other peoples which characterized the development of capitalism. Since imperialism, even more blatantly than capitalism itself, involves the outright and large-scale robbery of one group of people by another and since such blatant robbery needs to be concealed and/or "justified," to hold down the level of rebellion by the oppressed and exploited peoples, ideological "justifications" had to be developed to make the populations of both the oppressing and the oppressed nations tolerate the operation of the injustice. Since the imperialists were mostly fair-skinned, "racism," a mass invalidation of people based on skin-color, was developed. The white-skinned people were portrayed as "masters" appointed by God to look after the colored peoples. To manage these presumed "inferiors" was characterized as the "white man's burden."

In certain special circumstances special pressures gave rise to the most bizarre and extreme forms of racist ideologies. In the United States, where slavery was introduced into a supposedly "free capitalist society," the racist ideology portrayed the black Africans who were enslaved as "sub-human." In Australia where the early white settlers were convicts who had been treated with enormous violence themselves, the robbery of the land from the aborigines was carried out by outright hunting down and killing of the land's possessors as if they were game animals. In European-dominated Africa a white skin became a ticket to wealth and privilege regardless of the other characteristics of the person and was supported by the enormous economic exploitation of the black Africans. The most extreme manifestations of these institutions are only now finally crumbling before our eyes in South Africa.

Re-evaluation Counseling has from the beginning viewed every form of racism as completely irrational and anti-human. As we have 'come to understand the operation of oppression in human societies, racism has been targeted, along with sexism, classism and the oppression of young people, as one of the crucial enemies of human progress.

Re-evaluation Counseling began, however, in the United States and has spread most quickly to Canada, England, Australia and other English-speaking countries and next most quickly to other European countries. These countries are permeated with white racism. Within many of these countries are very large minority populations of people of color who endure economic and political discrimination and much inhuman treatment simply because of the color of their skin.

Those of us who began Re-evaluation Counseling sought from the beginning to include every variety of people within it. We thought of it as a workable companionship that could embrace all people in a great world-wide community. We were confident that the counseling tools themselves could be adapted to solve all separations and enmities.

(This has turned out to be potentially true. National barriers, language barriers, age differences, class differences and to some extent race differences have been surmounted )3y learning to adapt the tools of counseling to the specific difficulties. None of these barriers has been thoroughly dismantled. Sexism is still a problem, within RC. Because of the oppression of men, the numbers of men are still lower than we would wish. Young people, elders, manual, workers are fewer than is desirable.)

The separation of people caused by racism has, however, been the most intransigent difficulty. From the beginning people of color have come into and participated in RC, have loved the theory, loved the practice, used what they have learned well in the wide world and have tended to drop out of participation after at most a one- or two-year time.

(Present conditions are improving and hopeful. There is a "hard core" of black leaders, Native leaders, Latino/a leaders and Asian leaders who are permanently committed to ex- tending the tools of RC to all of their people. In many nations composed of people of color new leaders are spreading RC well.)

Finally, I think, we have the beginning techniques and the general understanding of the situation that will allow us to free our white RCers from their burden of racism and leave our Communities hospitable enough for people of color to be at home in them and claim them as their own.

The key clues to what I believe is a breakthrough understanding came at the African Continental Conference in Harare, Zimbabwe in the summer of '89. Some of the white RCers at the Conference had been exiled from South Africa (one had even been imprisoned and tortured) for their opposition to apartheid, yet were still so unawarely racist that the black African RCers could not function if these individuals joined their group.

A series of demonstrations began to reveal the problem. The racism of the whites was completely obvious and blatant to everyone in the black majority of the Conference and to some of the whites from other countries. The whites who were bearing the racism were completely unaware of it and could not believe or notice the way they were acting and what they were doing in the grip of the patterns.

How can such unawareness be explained? What kind of distress is involved? What has taken place in the person's life to leave them in this condition? It has been plain for some time that guilt is a major component of such a white person's racism and terror is always present. How did these get laid in?

Since the African Conference I have attempted demonstrations at other Conferences and workshops and I think I can now explain and demonstrate how to counsel white persons to free them from their racist patterns. Perhaps there are still difficulties ahead not revealed and still to be mastered, but I am far more hopeful about this than I have ever been. Progress seems dependable enough that additional knowledge seems certain to be revealed as we work in this field.

Some revelations that we have already attained heed to be kept in mind as we tackle this distress. One is that the distress of having accepted and participated in racism is a very large component of the white person's total distress. It is going to take a great deal of counseling, a great deal of discharge to remove it completely, to clean up the person's life in this regard. No single session or demonstration, no matter how dramatic or successful, is going to free the person completely from their racism. It is going to take much determined, ongoing work.

On the positive side, doing this work is going to make an enormous difference in the life of the person being freed of this racism. All the indications are that a major portion of a white person's attention and intellect is tied up in this distress. This means that successfully eliminating the racism is going to have huge beneficial effects on the person's life in many areas which at present are seemingly unconnected with this distress. The only comparable work that I think of has been the great movement to uncover and discharge the distress suffered as sexual abuse when a small child. This also takes a great deal of persistent work but brings enormous widespread benefits as a result.

What seems to work dependably well is for the counselor to ask the client for the earliest memory available of noticing that there was any other skin color in the world except "pink." Some clients immediately get a very early memory; others have to "work their way down" by remembering and at least discussing later incidents. When on early incident is reached and the person is asked to talk about the incident or about the person of color they remember, racism always comes into the memory quickly. Sometimes the discharge is immediate, sometimes the counselor needs to help by asking the client to apologize to the victim of racism, to go to their side and take their part, to explain to the victim of racism why they did not become their champion. These or any other form of contradiction to the basic distress will work. The basic distress is the terrified, broken-hearted acceptance of racism as enforced by the people they loved or were afraid of or were tied to in some other respect.

I have been saying to people of color at workshops for some time that, "Whites start out just as human as anybody; they're really good people, just as good as you are underneath their distress," and people of color have been saying, "Well, theoretically, I suppose it must be true, but why don't they act like it?" In these demonstrations it is clearly revealed that the white person was a very good, very human person, that it "broke their hearts" to give in to the imposition of racist attitudes, that they felt that they were giving up their humanness and were guilty and ashamed that they could not find the strength (often at two or three years of age) to stand .up against the powerful, frightening and often beloved adults or peers who were forcing the racism upon them.

Discharge is usually huge, voluminous. I have never done one of these demonstrations yet but what it has seemed obvious that the person could cry for hours and hours and hours if I had been able to stay with them as counselor for that long. Like any other major hurt this seems to tie into everything important in the life of the client.

I am sure that counseling skills will be useful or sometimes even, necessary but fundamentally it will be simple. Prepare yourself to do a good job of counseling in the usual way. Point Zero, remind yourself of the marvelously positive basic nature of the client; Point One-half, ask the client and help them find their way back to the earliest memory of noticing that there are any colors of skin in the world besides pink; Point One, pay enough attention to that memory to see clearly what the distresses are; Point Two, think of all, possible ways to contradict those distresses; Point Three, contradict the distresses sufficiently; the client will always discharge. Point Four, stay with the client or see that someone stays with the client for the long series of sessions which will allow the client to become non-racist and return his or her life to his or her own control and use.

Some videocassettes of demonstrations I have done are being prepared and may be helpful, but I do not think you need to wait for them. Go ahead and learn and practice and share with the rest of us everything you learn. It's time for white racist patterns to disappear from the RC Community and, with that as a start, from the wide world.

Last modified: 2021-11-17 11:53:22+00