Shifting Our Perspective to Seek Solutions for Racial Equality
“I’m on my knees looking for the answer. Are we human, or are we dancer*?”
-from the song Human/The Killers
I saw a moving, one-man play at my local library about W.E. DuBois. It was called A Man for All Times; written by Alexa Kelly and performed by Brian Richardson.
Poet, author, editor, activist, Dr. W.E. Du Bois believed that literacy and education were tools to help us lift the veil. The “veil” was what he called the racial divide in our country. W.E. DuBois helped found the NAACP and his newspaper, The Crisis, was a vital catalyst, support and contributor, as well as critic, of the Harlem Renaissance. He was a complicated man who quested for world peace, convinced it was the key to equal rights for all people.
He strived to bring his fellow countrymen and those around the world, their basic inalienable human rights. He was a civil rights leader who died the night before Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream speech.”
Hearing this fact about the timing of his death, I started to cry. There is a torch that is passed in clear daylight that remains invisible to the eye that is “veiled.”
Watching the documentary, “I Am Not Your Negro,” based on James Baldwin’s writings, it became apparent that what Mr. Baldwin, an eloquent, beautiful and courageously observant author, had to say in 1965 is just as pertinent today. Essentially, the veil over our eyes prevents us from really looking at the inequality that is perpetuated consistently on a vital portion of our population.
When we look at the human condition, greed and privilege are too tempting for those who already have what they perceive as power. It is hard to resist and, unless we shift perspective, we won’t be willing to give our “privilege” up, even if it means moral bankruptcy.
In the documentary, James Baldwin also suggests that there is a gap between what we want to be seen as and what we are. This causes problems in the home, which spurns us to create scapegoats outside of ourselves, to blame our unhappiness on, to put someone else down in order to build ourselves up to where we think we ought to be.
I feel the problem stems from an innate belief in a “me”. My ego will never be appeased, it will always think it should have more. Ironically, what we are is actually more than what we conceive ourselves to be.
“We look at life from a viewpoint of seventy or eighty years. But if the reference point were seventy or eighty billion light years, what would our reference point be then?”
- Sailor Bob Adams/author/teacher of non-dualistic perception
What if the question to the answer we are seeking is, “Who are we beyond the veil?”
What if we woke up, not just to realize that the world isn’t white, or black, but that we are, as the song Human queries, “DANCER”*? It is an investigation.
Are we just these temporal bodies or are we something that dances within everything? What if the awareness inside of us in this present moment is something that is looking out from everyone’s eyes simultaneously? Our seeming separation from one another and the planet we live on, causes us to strike out, to attempt to dominate everything. But if we are everything, we do not need to go to all that trouble or to make that much trouble for everyone else.
Martin Luther King understood that retaliation escalates hostility. What may have woken America up, momentarily, during the Civil Rights Movement was seeing people, men, women and children being attacked and not striking back. There was an alignment with a love that is vaster than ignorance and hatred.
I remember a friend telling me about being in a restaurant where a huge, tattooed biker stood outside the window watching him with venomous hatred. He had gone outside and said something like, “I know you hate my guts and that you probably wish I was dead. I am not challenging your beliefs. I just want to know how you came to have them.” The man had been braced for a fight but found himself telling my friend his story. At one point, he said the man’s eyes went out of focus and, when they came back, he seemed to be in shock. Here he was getting to talk about his pain. He was talking to my friend, oblivious or despite the color of his skin color, telling him something he may never have gotten to share with anyone, even himself. After he finished, he actually said, “Thank you.” This was a form of empathetic martial arts. My friend said he doesn’t know if it changed that man’s life but it changed his. He had grown up with violence and had been all about conflict up until that point. Now, he realized that being able to shift the conflict, staying centered in peace was a path he could take.
The mind tends to divide. The heart can unify. What we are goes beyond the veil. By each of us meditating on being bigger than a body confined to a timeline, we can connect to solutions that will allow us to see one another clearly, finding a way to prosperity that does not require someone else to pay a price that we would never be willing to pay.