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Talking about Race!

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Fri, Mar 2. 2012

Editor: “We do not always allow ourselves to work through pain. More often than not we think pain is a sign we must stop, rather than find its source. Our souls do not like stagnation. Our souls aspire toward growth, that is, toward remembering all that we have forgotten due to our trip to this place, the earth.”{{more}}

РMalidoma Som̩ РThe Healing Wisdom of Africa

Talking about Race!
Sara Nader – A man serenading a bird with a saxophone, and a woman’s face.

The illustration above is referred to as a reversible figure. Essentially, there are two figures, but only one of them tends to be perceived by most viewers at a time. Critically though, when both figures are perceived, it becomes impossible to revert to the original construct. When we do perceive both figures simultaneously, we’ve achieved a new rendering, a type of organization that we didn’t possess before. This is a fairly simple example of a reversible figure. I think it is fairly easy to detect both figures…was that your experience? At any rate, consider it an example of how human consciousness shifts as we learn increasingly about the surround.

Race, and racial superiority as constructs emerged with changes in the self -other configuration of European elites as they found themselves in positions of extraordinary power over others in the world. In many respects, these constructs worked, to the extent that there was buy-in, by those on the outside of the power elites. They inevitably and invariably break down however, because the “other” grows up, and the mystique of omniscience fails from its inherent incoherence. The problem lies in the addiction that humans have to such privilege. That is a problem that we need not take on, at least not now. I do however see it as a human problem that we must sort out.

So, what’s been missing? The other perspective . Ours! The pattern of human organization has not been addressed by us. Adrian Fraser is so correct, our story is yet to feature on the world – stage. As we tell that story though, we change ourselves. As we change ourselves, we change the world! Ours is a narrative of immense scope and significance, it represents the only case of a people totally reconstructing itself. As we share our story, we’ll discover our systematic connections with each other. The patterns of self abnegation we see from time to time reflect the regression that naturally occurs when the challenges of reality force us to look beneath the armor. Truth is I don’t think we should be too hard on those of us who say or do things that embarrass us, we are all likely to do some embarrassing things as we reshape our thinking. What is important is that those patterns are symptoms of long past events. We have been there, and done that already.

If Maia Eustace needed any assurance that her call has been heeded, she need look no further than to Jomo Thomas’ expository in his most recent column. What Jomo discloses is an experience that’s a central part of Black reality. The question for us is how do we turn ourselves from object, to subject of experience? The answer lies in lifting the penumbra, revealing the strength that we’ve inherited, recognizing our common origins and experience, honoring those who got us here, individually and collectively, and building a future- oriented world for the generation following us. It seems to me that it is this legacy that frames our destiny. That destiny requires us to continue the healing mission that our story has carved out for us. As Malidoma observes, we must allow ourselves to work through the pain so that we can experience, and celebrate the growth that rewards the effort. We need to put purpose to our lives.

“Vincentian” can only mean- the person arising from our shared narrative. How can “Vincentian” arise when we won’t allow ourselves to tell our individual, familial, community, and national stories…? Now that’s absurd!

I still say, Adrian, we must talk about race, but the more we do that, I think we’ll find that it is all about the journey. Talk to me…

“However improbable it may sound to the sceptics, Africa will prosper!

Whoever we may be, whatever our immediate interest, however much we carry baggage from our past, however much we have been caught by the fashion of cynicism and loss of faith in the capacity of the people, let us err today and say – nothing can stop us now!”

– Thabo Mbeki – then Deputy President, South Africa (Mbeki 1996)

Much respect,
Bert John

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