I began the week with a mission to write about racism and white supremacy. I promised that I would do so in my last blog. I wrote down a lot of things. None of it felt right, or useful.
As the week came on and the black face scandal unfolded, especially here in the state of Virginia, I sensed that I probably should not publish anything on this topic that is not based on my own direct experience of it. I tend to write and talk about so many things in the abstract, painting a broad general picture for people to consider. This is a dangerous time to communicate in such a way.
I need to simply share from my own personal experience. I have to stop trying to prove my point, and working to change people’s minds about things. The only way to do this is by sharing from my heart, and listening from my heart. This is at the core of my circle facilitation practice in which I have had the good fortune to engage across the planet. It is a dying art that is central to indigenous people everywhere and we need desperately to rediscover it and bring it into mainstream everyday life.
My intentions in all of this are for all of humanity. I want systems to change, all systems that benefit one group of people over another. I want political systems to change. I want economic systems to change. I want education, religious and legal systems to change. This is a massive human project in which all of us must be engaged.
So for now, I’m not going to talk about race and white supremacy as I promised. When I do, it will be about a little black boy who moved to Raleigh, North Carolina in the summer of 1976, our nation’s Bicentennial, and began asking himself this question because of all that was going on around and within him, “Am I a problem because of the color of my skin?”
For now, I want to simply offer you a beautiful piece of writing that illustrates the centrality of my thinking on racism, supremacy and our need to overcome any systems that oppress, deny or retard the growth of any living organism anywhere. It comes from Maria Popova, who is fast becoming my favorite cultural curator of all time. Her new book, Figuring, came out this week.
From the prelude:
All of it — the rings of Saturn and my father’s wedding band, the underbelly of the clouds pinked by the rising sun, Einstein’s brain bathing in a jar of formaldehyde, every grain of sand that made the glass that made the jar and each idea Einstein ever had, the shepherdess singing in the Rila mountains of my native Bulgaria and each one of her sheep, every hair on Chance’s velveteen dog ears and Marianne Moore’s red braid and the whiskers of Montaigne’s cat, every translucent fingernail on my friend Amanda’s newborn son, every stone with which Virginia Woolf filled her coat pockets before wading into the River Ouse to drown, every copper atom composing the disc that carried arias aboard the first human-made object to enter interstellar space and every oak splinter of the floor-boards onto which Beethoven collapsed in the fit of fury that cost him his hearing, the wetness of every tear that has ever been wept over a grave and the yellow of the beak of every raven that has ever watched the weepers, every cell in Galileo’s fleshy finger and every molecule of gas and dust that made the moons of Jupiter to which it pointed, the Dipper of freckles constellating the olive firmament of a certain forearm I love and every axonal flutter of the tenderness with which I love her, all the facts and figments by which we are perpetually figuring and reconfiguring reality — it all banged into being 13.8 billion years ago from a single source, no louder than the opening note of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, no larger than the dot levitating over the small i, the I lowered from the pedestal of ego.
How can we know this and still succumb to the illusion of separateness, of otherness? This veneer must have been what the confluence of accidents and atoms known as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., saw through when he spoke of our “inescapable network of mutuality,” what Walt Whitman punctured when he wrote that “every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”