“You cannot fix what you will not face.” –James Baldwin
A few weeks ago my 5-year old son wanted to have a party. Just a few friends over, play some games, run around the house, do what 5-year-olds do. No problem. Friends and fellowship are always welcome. But first he was instructed to clean his room.
After the usual hemming and hawing he conceded, trudging downstairs toward his room. Get your work done first, then reward. That’s been our household code of conduct since day one. Twenty minutes later he comes bounding upstairs, beaming a smile as wide as the wing tips of the toy airplane held in his hands.
“I’m done!” he exclaimed, “Room’s all clean!”
A short time later I’m down in his room checking out his work. At first glance the room appears spotless. Nothing on the floor. Bed made. Everything looking orderly and neat. Then I open the closet door and a cavalcade of clothes, toys, papers, and miscellaneous-items-from-who-knows-where come crashing to the floor.
Of course, he didn’t really clean his room. He simply moved the clutter and unsightly mess into the closet, closed the door, and hoped for the best.
Too often I observe a similar “Band-Aid” approach when dealing with injuries and pain in my private healthcare practice. A patient presents with a painful neck or back, but instead of wanting to address the source of their pain they prefer to consume a steady stream of pain killers to “feel better and heal”.
They appear surprised when I inform them the drugs aren’t doing a thing to help heal them, but are simply blocking the pain signals from traveling from the source of the pain through their nervous system to their brain.
“The painful problem is still there,” I express. “You just can’t feel it.”
The drugs are masking the pain. Temporarily hiding the pain. Acting like a Band-Aid over a cut. The cut is still there, it is simply being hidden from view by the Band-Aid.
Rule #1 in fixing a problem: Get to the root of the problem and address the cause, or guaranteed the problem will return.
This “treat-the-symptoms” approach seems inherent to much of humanity, and perhaps more importantly, expected by most of society. At all levels. Even with regards to a subject as ingrained and important as race-relations in America.
Out-of-sight-out-of-mind seems the preferred approach of many people when confronted with the nation’s dilemma of racial discord. Whether based in fear, pre-conceived bias, ignorance, or perhaps just plain laziness, a worrisome portion of the population exhibits no desire to address originating sources or roots of racial divide in the spirit of building toward a better, more genuine and harmonious future.
A few days ago, along with approximately 80 million other viewers, I watched the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Following the debate the online world was abuzz with people feeling a need to share their most memorable takeaways from the opinionated clash.
My heart-stake takeaway moment occurred around the topic of race-relations, when the moderator asked the candidates what they would or could do to help heal the race divide in America.
Donald Trump’s eager reply was, at least in my mind, the same sort of culturally blind, race-privileged, pro-slavery view we might expect to hear in the confederate south prior to the abolition of slavery in 1865.
Moderator to Donald Trump: “What would you do to help HEAL the racial divide?”
Donald Trump: “Two words….LAW & ORDER.”
His answer appealed perfectly to his base of supporters, nourishing their fears of change and avoidance of difference, speaking nothing of the causes or sources of racial division, offering no constructive input that may help heal and deal with such divisions from the inside-out.
Instead, his answer was a super-adhesive Band-Aid solution of law and order. An attempt to make the problem appear calm, clean, perfect, and non-existent. Or, much like my 5-year-old, throw everything in the closet, close the door, and hope for the best.
Definitely not the unifying visionary leadership we may hope for from a leading presidential candidate. Rather the same forceful rhetoric of superficial solution that has been voiced for a couple of centuries. This at a time when America’s racial divide and discord exists as great, if not greater, than it ever has in the nation’s 240 year history. In a sense, a fitting testament to the snail-like evolution of racial cohesion that continues to exist in various segments of the country.
“Society constantly expends its efforts to correct effects instead of causes, which is one reason why the development of human consciousness proceeds so slowly.” –Dr. David Hawkins, Power vs. Force
Without question, Mr. Trump’s statement of law and order was a reference to the recent rash of clashes and civil disobedience protests held in major cities around the nation. Protests staged by significant numbers of citizens and groups in response to highly publicized and unjust police shootings and killings of people of color.
To be clear, unfair police violence toward people and communities of color is nothing new. The only thing new has been the smartphone technology allowing these acts to be captured and shared, literally in real time, with millions of people around the world. What used to occur regularly in the dark has now been brought to the light of the world, rightfully triggering the outrage and reaction it so justly deserves.
Newsflash to Mr. Trump and his band of merry supporters who seem to be constantly asking the question, “Why can’t things stay the same, like they were many years ago, and make America great again?” Life moves forward, karma exists, and nothing stays the same forever.
In a constantly-evolving reality you either grow, adapt, and innovate…or find yourself left behind. You would think that Donald Trump, as the amazingly successful (extremely questionable?) business tycoon he claims to be, would realize the importance adaptive evolution in the healing, health, and progress of an evolving nation. A nation he wishes to make great again.
Donald Trump’s greatest political strength has been his ability to perceive, concentrate, and voice the fears of his narrow-minded base, swirling and expanding those fears like a master charlatan, and channeling the energy of those fears in a hate-mongering way toward groups such as people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and more.
One of my favorite post-debate comments regarding the majority of Trump supporter’s dominating views toward people of color as one of America’s greatest problems came from a cousin in Ohio, a proverbial battleground state where racial divisions are great. I share the following spiel, which she wrote on her social media timeline, with permission:
“All people of color don’t live in the inner-city. All people of color are not poor. The great majority of people of color are law abiding. All people of call don’t idolize church leaders. People of color don’t hate cops – we don’t like the bad ones and want them held accountable to the laws. We are tired of the stereotypes and labeling which leads to profiling. Simply stated, most people of color simply want to be left the hell alone, want disparities to close, and want the same equal treatment and privilege as everyone else. Make that happen and America won’t be great again, it will be great for once.” -Monica Bowles
Make that happen and America won’t be great again, it will be great for once.
What a brilliant, human, and real statement. So authentic and personal, from a hard-working woman of color sharing a humanly universal desire to be treated fairly, without bias, and on a same-level playing field in a nation still ripe with opportunity to allow its growing population to achieve the greatest freedoms and successes the mind can imagine.
It’s a statement that could easily be directed specifically toward the ideology desiring to place people of color in a box and hide that box someplace distant. An ideology that would prefer to engage iron-handed law and order to maintain a pseudo-peaceful status-quo, silencing voices that are being treated unfairly and inequitably, wishing the difficult race conversation would simply go away.
No one, including myself, believes that bridging difficult racial divides on a mass scale will ever be easy. There is no one-size-fits-all answer or solution to the questions of healing existing disparities, inequities, unfair treatment, and brutalities woven as deeply into the nation’s creative fabric as the higher hope-filled ideal America yet has the potential to become.
Still, difficult questions must be addressed at their root, and truthful answers attempted in response to the question, “What would you do to help heal the nation’s racial divide?”
Necessarily, there will be individual answers and answers of the collective. Like science, there is a very real possibility that more answers will lead to more and more questions. Each of which will have to be addressed layer-by-layer, much like the unpeeling of an onion.
Eventually, perhaps, these micro-undertakings will reach a critical mass, causing an unprecedented shift in the conversation which will truly address legitimate root causes of America’s racial divide. There is great work to be done, on both sides of the equation.
But first, the existence and ongoing reality of America’s detrimental culture of fear must be realized and understood. America’s culture of fear, so easily exploited by a rabble-rouser such as Donald Trump, is paramount in people’s avoidance of difficult race conversations and ongoing behaviors associated with prejudice and partisan pride.
The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. –H. P. Lovecraft
Fear is at the root of many human shortcomings and behaviors, including how we often perceive and interact with other human beings. While familiarity fosters comfort, that which is unfamiliar, unfortunately, too often triggers unnecessary caution and fear. Unnecessary fear too often prevents constructive communication, interaction, and keeps groups of people bound in senseless bubbles of pseudo self-preservation.
Of course, fear exists for a reason, and at times serves a purpose necessary for survival. Like when we may be approached by a hungry bear while walking alone in the woods. In terms of civilized human interactions, however, fear too often acts in a detrimental manner, erecting walls and barriers to meaningful exchanges and collaborations that could allow us to realize how much we have in common, and that our similarities far outweigh our differences.
Part 2 of this series, Transforming a Fearful Nation: Real World Expressions of Power vs. Force, will focus on the concept of fear. How to recognize unnecessary fear. How to overcome fear. How to move past fear into the realm of courage, where amazing results may exist and occur.
But for now, as a reminder lesson from Part 1, remember Rule #1 in fixing a problem: Strive to get to the root of the problem and address the cause, or guaranteed the problem will return.
As always, thank you for reading…wishing wellness and empowerment your way,