Archive | December 2017

Jardana Peacock: Spiritual & Racial Awareness Work

(This is the second part of the blog of a two-part article about Jardana Peacock, white, anti-racist Ally)

II.

Jardana’s mentors have taught her many, helpful life-skills for her work as an anti-racism individual, that also be employed by systems, to thwart growth within groups, that espouse non-racist behaviors, thought-processes and lifestyles, to educate whites and the general culture about white privilege, Racial Justice; and the need for whites who wish to engage in political, economic, social & spiritual actions, that could liberate many whites who’re hung up in this “old brain” way.

Very fortunately, one of her mentors was the anti-racist fireball, Anne Braden, who also lived in Louisville, Kentucky; Anne died at age eighty-one, and was a powerful example to Jardana, of tireless work & commitment to Civil Rights; she remarked that just knowing Braden was a primary element in her own white-awareness journey.  From her work came the establishment of the Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research.

I asked Jardana how things were going with the anti-racism movement in Louisville where she lives; many activists are tired out, have compassion fatigue, so they’re asking one another how they can stay connected in such a low-energy state.

In her work with peers, Jardana uses a body-centered approach, as “the real stuff” where the body may lead us to places where some kind of trauma or oppression hides, or the sheer, intuitive sensing that the Universe is connected and interdependent, both in material and in spiritual realms; all of us on this big old ball in the sky (or at least many do) feel this at times by a felt-body-sensation.  This is an issue of spiritual splicing our lives into the oneness.

This is so true, especially for simply “being with” the feelings, the biases, the cognitive distortions and disrupted emotions, the anger, the hate, the pride of superiority; as we practice, we focus more on racial-awareness and more of our unconscious insights may flood up into our conscious minds.

In her work, Ms. Peacock uses other creative modalities; she uses the kinds of exercises that enable us to shed our old skin of social conditioning, poems, dreams, writing exercises, asking good, clear questions, making art or crafts using one’s own hands, the identification of accurate knowledge, rituals, and relationship activities.

In Jardana’s mind, the end result for anyone in this arena of life is to allow an anti-racist-identity to grow for them, in whatever way it wants to show itself.

I asked Jardana if she ever felt push-back from people when she uses the word “spiritual,” in connection with actualizing more of our anti-racist inclinations; she responded in the affirmative, having observed this resistance on the part of many whites.

In anti-racism work, I’ve noticed that our spirit/mind/body coalesces within our inner person; the oneness of humanity and all other life-forms, gives us a center-point for our integrity, and to act with the same alignment with all of bio-life in the natural systems; this alignment gives meaning to the very central matrix of our beings, and with all other, interacting life.

After our conversation about what appears to work and what doesn’t work, this writer sees a deficiency of insight and accurate information, from a spiritual & philosophical base. Perhaps the most bottom-line, universal fact is that if we want to see changes in the world, we have to put on new glasses to see it, too.  Internalized oneness gives us a new worldview, perhaps a newer brain, and, hopefully, a new consciousness about racism, diversity, difference and racial healing. Our essential common denominator is our human\ness. All of our experiences may have left wounds that need to be healed.  We let the healing begin with us.

Copyright: Christopher Bear-Beam December 8, 2017

 

I Left My Heart In Perfectionland

I.

I left my hometown of Chicago for perfection. No, actually I should say, I left my hometown (is it perfect yet?) for perfectionism (the religious kind). Dad’s. Afterall, what better time to go to California, it was the Sixties Cultural Revolution, and freedom from dad’s perfectionism felt like a trashing of all the conventional norms in pursuit of myself; I guess you could say, the pressure and coercion was off my neck and shoulders. Real freedom came with being a “free bird” by an emotional cut-off from dad’s perfectionism with me as his target.

Recently, I’ve been thinking of the dance that White Privilege (WP) and Perfectionism seem to do, then how we get hung up and stuck in it. There are no experts who know the steps. I think the correlation between these two elements fits nicely into the framework of WP and Perfectionism. There are many of the same causal factors and succeeding results in relation to WP and Perfectionism.

When the letters “ism” are added to a word, there’s an implicit sense of something operating badly, out-of-sync, or unhealthily, and producing unhealthy outcomes. More in line with reality, it’s basically a neutral trait; if I’m training as a professional athlete, I set certain standards for work-outs, nutrition needs, rest, or I may set training goals in sequence, such as, “I expect to be able to do all my training exercises consecutively, at a certain rate of speed & time, by May, 2017.” Or it may be a broader, more over-arching goal such as, “I expect to compete in the next Olympics or Special Olympics.”

Often the difference in whether goals come from external stimuli, or internal catalysts is a key to whether something is seen as a driving the need for perfection; external motivators may be viewed as manifesting in anxiety. If these stimuli are coming from both people in authoritative roles like coaches, and those we usually highly value their judgments about us, such as parents, friends, and other relatives, they’re more impactful on us.

It will probably be a far more effective action to work towards internalizing-motivation-to-achieve-certain-goals we desire, rather than relying on external stimuli.

Unrealistic expectations and our array of “need for perfections” are often more the kinds of behaviors that “we beat ourselves up for.” If our expectations are “highly valued” (meaning “I have to get a perfect score to be a success in life” or “If I miss just one answer, I’ll know that I’m a failure”) then my life might be less stressful.

Unrealistic goals or expectations, as well, set us up for failure repeatedly again and again; perhaps the biggest unhealthy consequence is negative and highly-critical self-talk and self-judgment; in this vicious circle dynamic, self-judgment channels into behaviors-then, if we shift moods to despairing or discouraged, then the tributary runs into more negative and hyper-critical self-talk-judgments, etc. magnifying more behaviors.

There may be culturally-assimilated values, and for many whites this is first and foremost a “performance-orientation” towards life; Capitalism intersects here by the performance-orientation with the competitive-nature of our American culture-perform more, excel in your field, burn the competition, do it right, goddammit! work harder and smarter, downsize so eventually you can rise-up; look, we’re competing in a Global Market. Nothing’s the same except you have to perform it well and get it done right!

From my experience in life (an Anthropological one), and working with myself and other folks about what racial healing and justice can look like, one of the myths I’ve observed clusters among whites who think, feel and act as if they’ve got to be over-achievers for the good of others. We whites, especially white males, have got to set the pace, the lead, and the role-modeling. We’re the “instrumental” and action-oriented gender, so that’s our role!

Another way to look at how society manifests our white need for perfection is the White Is Right philosophy; we’ve conditioned and embedded into our culture the “truth” that whiteness is the norm for culture, beauty, art, ethics, government, social institutions, and just about any other dimension you can think of.

From this place of understanding flows the idea that there are many people (generally persons-of-color) who need our help and assistance to learn the “how-to’s,” of life, or to learn the system, etc.

There are situations in life that demand “fixing.” We whites have been self-designated as the real “fixers” of humanity’s problems and deficiencies. After all, we fled religious persecution and we made ourselves the “emperors in the same old clothes, didn’t we?” No, no, we’re no pansy-asses! We did that because we’re good at what we do-like genocide, slavery, declaring Africans as sub-human, use of oppression and “divide and conquer” tactics to keep all the non-whites in check, to keep us (whites) up and them (the ones we’re oppressing) down, so we can keep enriching ourselves in our WP system.

In so many words, whites are set up to be the “perfect” people, right? We may even intellectually and academically recognize what perfection entails, but in terms of our worldview, often we get demanding of it for ourselves and others.

European, White, Western civilization has been caught in the bear trap of scientific thinking and measurement. None of these are somehow “bad” by themselves. Whites, as a general rule (there are of course exceptions), let’s call it our European-American cultural-thinking mode, is a literalistic one, a linear one. If I’m a perfectionist, I usually see a process as a series of events, unrelated to one another, “This, That, next after That, next after This and That, etc.”

Many indigenous cultures use a more organic, moveable, constantly changing, natural and cyclical way of looking at life; the non-linear mind allows a very creative and intuitive way to perceive the surrounding, empirical environment. Instead of employing a systemic schedule, for instance, of planting and harvesting crops, Indigenous culture observes the seasons, habits of animal and other life-forms in the ecosphere, and look for other signs from Mama Earth and Daddy Sky.

In so many unique ways our life-perceptions line-up to a general difference (and not one based on a duality scale) between them. This isn’t to suggest that combinations or hybrids forms may not evolve into other life configurations.

One day, while going to grade school, someone, a teacher or some other official school authority, announced to our school that a certain, male student had hung himself at home. A somber pall and shock settled like dull, electrified dust particles over our whole community. Later, we found out that the student had written a “suicide note.” In the note, he said that one of the reasons he wanted to kill himself was due to the fact that his grades in school were low, and nothing he tried seemed to bring them up. His choice in what was an unsolvable dilemma was to take his own life.

I have some vague memories about how I felt about his death in my own young mind; I found myself taking on the stress, anxiety and sadness that would lead a person, my age, feeling such despair as to take his own life. I also had to group some of my own feelings in this other boys’s ante. Could suicide happen to me, if it could happen to anyone? If it could happen to him?

It seems probable to me that parental demands for perfection may have sent this young boy over the edge-and so it relates to our culturally-wide stigma of imperfection. We unconsciously think to ourselves, ‘if we don’t do it, who will?’ We think that all brands of perfection motivate us to set high standards for ourselves; the problem here, appears to be when others set the standards, and when we feel there’s no way we can meet them. There are no clear alternatives seen, and so discouragement and demoralization get a foot hold in our heads.

Putting this all in the framework of WP, it definitely seems as though privilege reinforces perfection, and perfection reinforces privilege, an endless, almost mindless, cycles. In our journey in anti-racism, we can see that now there are two factors on which to focus.
Is there anyway out of this “stuckness?”

Of course there is, but it will take hard work and determination to unlearn perfectionism as it relates to WP! Learning our own kind of imperfection may help us.

Copyright: Christopher Bear-Beam December 15, 2017 (STAY TUNED FOR PART II)

Jardana Peacock: Spiritual & Racial Awareness Work

 

I.

I was somewhat hesitant, as I waited while the clock ticked closer and closer to twelve noon. I was slightly nervous about this interview with Jardana (prounounced Jar-Dana) Peacock, because for the original interview, I actually had written into my calendar, the wrong day-so I dropped the ball, and we didn’t do the interview that day.

Anyway, the day had come, and I felt so psyched for the interview!

Believe me, the conversation with Jardana Peacock, a mind & body facilitator, who works in the field of Anti-racism, went really well, and by the end of it, I felt we had made a deep connection, which is one of Jardana’s favorite pieces to her philosophy of staying connected to the entire Universe. This connection for me is one of supportive respect and caring concern for one another in our place in the Universe.

The other thing you’ll notice-Ms. Peacock has a very cool name!
As soon as Jardana answered my phone call, all my uncertainty left, like a breeze through a window, and out the door, its observed presence of partnership very clearly there.

As we spoke, I felt a deeper connection that vivified our conversation. One of the reasons I’d wanted to interview Jardana is that she, along with other, forward-thinking anti-racist people and organizations (and people already having some kindred relationships together), began a conversation on how white folks could talk about their own unaware racism, and in a safe place to do so.

Eventually, a consortium of groups who were stake-holders of various strategies and committed work to anti-racism, met with the goal of impacting their community with racial education & actions that would make that goal a reality.

At the time, and now, Jardana Peacock lives in Louisville, Kentucky (interestingly enough my grandparents and an aunt and uncle of mine lived in Louisville, too; two trips per year from Chicago). If this working consortium came into existence, what would it look like? What kind of structure would it have? What would be its mission, vision or goal? How would it function?

Eventually, an organization of affiliates began to emerge and has spread chapters all around the country. The name of SURJ, means appropriately, “Stand Up For Racial Justice,” was now birthed into being, and now has 52 affiliates around the U.S. & Canada

My connection with Jardanas & other’s process is that I’m now a member of SURJ-Southern Maine Seacoast (a Facebook page for our organization can be found); since my art is writing, I’ve been writing blogs & poetry on the subject of Racial Healing. Joining SURJ has motivated me at a much greater rate, to use my writing as a way of activism. (Also see Chris Bear Beam Facebook page).

Why was SURJ needed? In part there was a white back-lash to the Obama, African-American Presidency. SURJ’s incipient start understood by the acronym “SURJ” meant “Standing Up For Racial Justice,” whose primary purpose is to educate whites in our culture about racism, white privilege, anti-racism & racial justice. Anyone from any ethnicity can join SURJ, however. Naturally, membership is without stipulation as to one’s religion, creed, ethnicity, nationality, culture, or people-grouping.

As the process that Jardana describes for us unfolded, the group created a leadership team, and later a retreat was held to strategize where to go from that point, and to do so in a non-reactive, more proactive way-this is the model they designed, and then implemented in the pre-formative stage of SURJ.

As I came to understand this hook-up with SURJ, and Jardana’s role in it, this gave me more of the “deep story” of how systems grow, morph, adapt, and then act on their mission.

One of the wise facts Ms. Peacock shared with me is that White Supremacy disconnects us from the basic needs we have as humans; because we feel this disconnect, we feel separated from own racial healing, as well as from different from us. Here, again, is the steady mantra that I think we need to pay more attention to: the ongoing connection to our internalized oneness and interbeing with all other life-forms on our planet.

Popularly, the maxim is often said this way: ‘If we don’t learn from our her-story (opposite to his-story), we’ll repeat the same mistakes we made in the past in the future.’
When we, as anti-racists return to the center of our being, we come back home. The basic purpose of The Center For the Healing Of Racism, Houston, Texas [I was a co-facilitator with the organization for about eighteen years] (check-out: http://www.centerhealingracism.org) is that of internalizing our oneness.

In our majority, dominant culture of whiteness we’ve been trained as whites to “be in a limbo state,” stresses Peacock. It’s like we’re floating in an endless sea of “whiteness” without fully understanding what it means to be white in this culture.

Both as a consultant and anti-racism facilitator, Jardana has observed key elements that can be emulated and practiced, to insure that we become more effective advocates & activists:
To kindle passion for oneness
Understanding trauma may be a part of the way folks can integrate and learn from the trauma, especially if facilitators are “trauma-informed”
The development of resiliency (sometimes “hardiness” is used) is a vital necessity. An anti-racist mind-set, puts many whites in a very lonely position, off the chain, so to speak, requiring much patience, not yielding to one’s own need for open-ness if they feel disconnected, and not getting stuck in some type of mental paralysis: resiliency is an imperative “survival tool.”

 

017

Albert Einstein: I Won’t Be Quiet About the “Disease of White People”

Perhaps one of the greatest anti-racism advocates was a German man, with wild & funny, “stand-up” hair, and known for once sticking out his tongue (which was caught on a reporter’s camera). Let’s not forget he was the discoverer of the theory of relativity (one of those minor details), along with being an incredible, wise, intelligent, and gifted man: you’re probably way ahead of me (oh, I bet you read the title); I’m speaking about Albert Einstein of course.

Albert Einstein was a model for many of us alive today, as a anti-racist activist & warrior for Civil Rights, primarily advocating for African-Americans after he came from Germany to the U.S. to live.

Einstein was a man who used his celebrity and privilege (as one of the most well-known people in the world), to speak truth to power. As a white scientist and one who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1929, he recognized that as a Jew from Germany he was uniquely positioned to advocate for the rights of African-Americans who lived in the U.S.

When he first began speaking out here in this country (which was very soon after he arrived), there would be people who would say, ‘What makes you think you have the right to give public voice to your opinions?’ Einstein’s response was, he felt justified, because he was a Jew who lived under the heavy boot of the Hitler’s Third Reich; of course, as a Jew, he was personally aware of the anti-semitic platform dressed in Nazi clothes; and, he was directly targeted by the elites of the Nazi Party.

So, Albert Einstein knew and perceived the similarities between America’s white supremacy and what was then the emerging, Nazi system in Germany.
(There’s a key diversion that I must write about here. This concerned the “influence of systemic white racism in the U.S. on Nazi Germany” [Thaddeus Atzmon, Nazi Germany’s US Racial Model: Translocal Whiteness. The Racism Review, October 29, 2017].
The author cites historian Norman Rich, who wrote: “…the United States policy of westward expansion, in the course of which the white man ruthlessly thrust aside the ‘inferior’ indigenous population, served as a model for Hitler’s entire concept of Lebensraum [living space]” (Ibid., p. 2).

Hitler gave public speeches in which he spoke admirably about the way white Americans had “gunned down the millions of Redskins to a few hundred thousand, and now keep the modest remnant under observation in a cage” (Ibid.).

Hitler used the U.S. as the model of Translocal Whiteness, i.e., Nazi Germany was the country that would attack the Eastern Front, in a kind of second “Manifest Destiny,” and the trend of the “white identity movement” being a universal display of the new global identity of Whiteness, ruling over other people-groups. Many of the Nazi Elites were consumed & obsessed over “these white racially framed narratives that began in the U.S. and easily took hold in Nazi Germany” (Ibid.).

The Third Reich was busy establishing Jews as ‘second-class citizens,’ as the U.S. had done, primarily to African-Americans, and other ethnicities of color. Nazi party officials wrote in an article: “The United States too [just like Germany] has racist policies and policies. What is lynch justice, if not the natural resistance to the Volk (there’s a comparison made with vast group of human beings, who happened to be white-emphasis & parenthesis mine) to an alien race that is attempting to gain the upper hand?

Most states of the Union have special laws directed against the Negroes, which limit their voting rights, freedom of movement, and career possibilities” (Ibid., p. 3).

In Hitler’s eyes, the oppression & genocide of the Jews, was just a continuation of the rise of universal White Power, as had happened in the U.S., and would now happen on a global scale, starting with Germany; thus the term translocal; this was an expression for both Germany and the U.S. who were seen as “virtous actors” in the process of “systemic racialized oppression” (Ibid.).

In our contemporary world, the planet is now being reached and being implemented to get “buy in” on this concept of “translocal whiteness,” by use of the Internet; the internet allows racist ideologies to be spread instantaneously to everyday whites across the globe; if one is a racist, this technology would be viewed as absolutely astounding in its ability to communicate with whites about the need for White Supremacy.

This is a part of Albert Einstein’s story, too. No doubt Einstein was aware of talk by Germans and party apparatuses like newspapers, etc., placing the U.S. on a high pedestal for its racist practices and laws; he, no doubt, observed this, perhaps many times. We just don’t know for sure.

In an article in Pageant Magazine, sometime in 1946, and then in a speech he gave at Lincoln University, sixty miles away from Princeton, Einstein communicated about racism, by calling it “the white disease of racism,” in both of the above places. It’s also noteworthy that Einstein didn’t speak at Princeton, but at Lincoln University, an African-American university.

Friends & associates, who may have not possessed the kind of “moxie” that Albert Einstein had working for him, warned him not to speak out against white supremacy, both in the northern and the southern regions of the U.S. In a Smithsonian (no date) article,

Just as Einstein’s enemies used his Jewish identity to attack his science, Einstein himself drew on his own Jewishness to amplify his message about social justice and American racism. ‘Being a Jew myself, I can understand & empathize (emphasis mine) with how black people feel as victims of discrimination,’ he said in an interview with family friend Peter Bucky. While his political opinions made him a controversial figure, he also got traction, because his words resonated more than most (unknown page).

When Einstein said, “I won’t be quiet about it” (speech at Lincoln University), he meant it, and, in this writer’s mind, went beyond his own expressions of advocacy-he actively put his name and sponsorship on many anti-racism projects, campaigns, and legislative actions.

The following are excerpts from Einstein’s article in Pageant Magazine, 1946, entitled “The Negro Question.” Then he gave a speech (mentioned above) at Lincoln University, an all African-American university.

At first glance, this may seem to some like a glittering generality, but it holds a perhaps much deeper truth.

The whites who arrived in America were primarily European-Americans. The source of racism in our nation was the establishment of a system of white supremacy & white racism, for white’s enrichment. The lynch-pin of this racist system was the very adaptible notion of white privilege (WP). WP is particularly powerful, due to its ability to be “chamelion-like,” morphing with historical & contextual needs at varied times; WP is an often subtle, subversive, and unconscous form of racism. It can be placed under the rubric of Unaware Racism.

In summary, WP was the tool that bracketed white standards, as the only real standards of morality, beauty, civilized societys, intelligence, emotionality, etc. This is the white-is-right formula.

There’s no factual basis (or otherwise) for what folks call “reverse racism;” that is to say, racism should only be applied to whites in terms of our cultural norms. Racism may be formalized by this credo: power + privilege=racism. Which group holds privilege and power in our culture? White people!

The popular disbelief of many whites is to obliterate the need for any kind of affirmative action, on the part of persons-of-color, is often used under the label of reverse racism, and is based on mythological ignorance. Remember the formula above: whites are the class with power within our culture.

If safeguards for African-Americans and other groups of color weren’t employed, people of color would certainly not be on a level playing field, because they’ve never been from the incipient beginnings of this nation anyway; they would be even more disabled economically, and most likely there would be even less access to employment (as well as other social services), than what we have now in this present time.

Einstein lauded the American “democratic trait,” then noted that the American ideal of equality that he observed that this “sense of equality and human dignity is mainly limited to men of white skins.”

In addition, “Your ancestors dragged these black people from their homes by force; and in the white man’s quest for wealth and an easy life they have been ruthlessly suppressed and exploited, degraded into slavery. The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition (emphasis mine).”
From the very start of this nation, white racism & WP, was designed purposely to enrich and advantage white people, and this is why we see an intersectionality between Capitalism & Racism. Thus, this system of WP was engineered to keep whites “up” and others “down.”

I believe that Einstein’s presence in American notoriety was indeed one of those “synchronistic” happenings at just the right time-right in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement. Einstein, perhaps, was one of the few who could advocate for equality and equal rights, in a way that no one else could do. One of the few who could speak his truth to power, and not be quiet about it.

Copyright: Christopher Bear-Beam December 6, 2017