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Racism and the Collapsing Society, Barbara Love and Tim Jackins, June 7, 2020

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The Work of United to End Racism

Racism has existed in human societies, in various forms, for many centuries. Over the course of human history it has become a part of our societies and our institutions. It shapes and perpetuates the inequities of these societies.

Racist institutions target certain people with racism and condition others to be the agents of racist oppression. Though racism is aimed at certain sections of a population, it also corrodes and corrupts the entire society, severely limiting its progress, and limiting the progress of every individual in that society toward a full and meaningful life.

The struggle to understand racism and to take action to eliminate it has, in the last period, developed to the point where we can be confident that racism will be ended in this century. People have interrupted racismπs worst manifestations in many places and have begun to secure broad agreement on policies to root out racism from many of our societiesπ institutions.

A key part of the struggle to eliminate racism is healing the damaging, corrupting effect of racism on individuals. Removing racist policies from our institutions is vital, as is correcting past inequities and creating fair and just conditions of life for all. This will save future generations from much of the damage done to earlier generations. But we must also work to heal individuals, for only by doing this can we be confident that racist policies will not re-appear in another guise.

We must heal three forms of damage. The first is the damage done to individuals who have been targeted by racism. All of the hurts from being systematically treated as inferior, denied a fair share of the resources, enslaved, demeaned, attacked, and much more, must be healed.

Second is the influence of racism on its targets and their thinking and attitudes toward themselves. Racist attitudes can be so saturating that they are absorbed by the targets of racism, sometimes causing them to treat themselves and other members of their group in a manner similar to how the agents of the oppression have treated them. They may end up belittling themselves and each other, considering themselves and each other as less important, essentially internalizing the oppression.

The third form of damage is the corruption of the minds and spirits of those trained by society to be the agents of racism. No one is born with a racist attitude. It results from mistreatment. The individual acting as the agent of racism has been hurt into playing that role. No one has a better life, in any fully human sense, for being racist, though he or she may benefit materially.

All three kinds of damage can be healed. If allowed to persist without healing, the damage not only perpetuates racism, it also limits everyoneπs abilities to think and move forward to eliminate the other oppressions in our societies. It makes the work and lives of those fighting to end racism more difficult. Healing this removes many of the difficulties of working together and strengthens the building of alliances.

The work of United to End Racism is to undo the damage done by racism. People are able to move forward simply by the force of their own thinking, but unless they are able to heal the emotional hurts of racism, they continue to carry the effects of those hurts along with them. Even if all racist behavior stopped immediately, the results from having been the targets of being targeted by racism would not disappear. Feelings of being attacked, worthless, in danger, and belittled would continue to resurface, confuse people, and erode their lives.

If a targeted person is allowed and encouraged to tell the stories of his or her mistreatment fully, with others listening with their full attention, he or she will begin to heal. When he or she is able to not just recount the facts of the situation, but also allow himself or herself to feel and show what it was like for him or her personally, feel and express the rage, grief, or terror, he or she becomes increasingly free of the damage. All the effects of the mistreatment can be healed if the person is given enough time, attention, and understanding. This is the work of United to End Racism.

Without this healing, the rage, grief, and terror from the past continue to affect the person.

Healing from mistreatment is not easy work, and many of us resist it. We may feel that we have been able to persist in life only by holding inside the stories of how we were hurt. It may seem unbearable to look at and feel those hurts again, perhaps because for so long most of us had no opportunity to tell our stories, so we survived by numbing ourselves to the damage and accepting the idea that it was impossible to get free of it. We now know it is possible. We know that all people are capable of freeing themselves and that the apparently unbearable feelings do not persist once the healing process begins.

Tim Jackins

Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00