President Obama, Race, & Ferguson
Barack Obama’s run for President in 2008 was one of the most inspiring and spiritual experiences of my life. It was one of those defining moments, similar to attending the Million Man March. Both events represented a time in my life where I cried (as in bawled) and didn’t care what I looked like. At the Million Man March, I experienced at-one-ment with all black men. Throughout our lives we experience certain moments that transcend all previous life experiences. Both the Obama victory and the Million Man March were such moments. They were both on par with life events like induction into my fraternity, being accepted into the priesthood of the spiritual community, and engagement to my lovely wife Kenya K.
Those things may not seem equivalent to most people, but they were for me. Maybe if you identify as an African-American male in the United States it might make some sense. I can’t even begin to tell you how it felt and still feels to see a man who identifies as African American in the WHITE house. It made me feel better about myself in ways I didn’t know I needed to improve. It helped my self-esteem as a black man to be honest. I can admit that now. Before President Obama ran for President, I never voted. I’m not terribly proud of that fact, but also not ashamed about it. I considered myself a revolutionary for most of my life, including now. I was against the political corporate agenda and against the culture of classism, unrestricted capitalism, and racism in America. My whole family was low key militant, I would eventually follow suit.
When I look at the plight of all people who find themselves on the short side of racial and economic agendas, lack of self-worth and esteem is the common thread. Esteem is what actually suffers, which is most important for happiness and peaceful living. Black people who find themselves the subject of racism would give anything to revise and revamp self-esteem. That includes me as a black man. If you talk to most black revolutionary philosophers, activists, and historians they would all agree that an established system of racism – a.k.a. Institutionalized Racism or White Supremacy – is the pervading challenge amongst people of color in modern western societies – This is mostly due self-image issues that result.
I remember Oprah’s last show, she stated the number one issue she experienced in dealing with the myriad of people she’d interviewed and came into contact with over her long career was a lack of self-worth. She said people didn’t understand their value. Their actions and choices reflected that clearly. I never forgot that statement and never took it lightly either.
The problem with Institutionalized Racism (IR) is the effect it has on the psyche and the minds of people it affects AND the people who perpetuate it. Some of those effects?
- #1 – To not know you’ve been affected,
- #2 – To not believe in yourself as a powerful creative being
- #3 – To stay in a cyclical state of victimhood and inaction
Most black people in America don’t know the degree to which they’ve been affected by IR. They may know something is happening out there and in their communities and even to them, but they don’t necessarily understand the depth of it. They don’t know the way they are looking at the problem is skewed by IR itself. They don’t know their actions and solutions to IR are also skewed by it. They don’t know they’re looking at the wrong thing and that IR is not higher or separate from Institutionalized Unrestricted Capitalism (IUC) and Institutionalized Classism (IC). So many are attacking the wrong head of the hydra because you don’t realize it’s a hydra to begin with.
You can’t end IR without ending IUC or IC because IR is a tool created to further IUC and IC. Race is not a more passionate issue than wealth. If you ask any wealthy person if they’d rather have wealth forever or complete subjugation of another race forever, but not both, they would all choose wealth. IR is just a part of the divide and conquer strategy resulting from IUC and a belief system reflecting issues around self-worth.
If you don’t acknowledge your self-esteem has been compromised by IR, IUC, and IC then you’re not aware of challenge. You’re still under complete subjugation of these systems and ways of thinking. You’re still in the Matrix accepting a belief system that is counter to your humanness.
That’s what we’re seeing play out in Ferguson with the methods of protest displayed on the news. We’re seeing ourselves reacting without knowing the problem. How do we know? It’s easy. We’re REACTING to extreme environmental stimuli – a verdict, a shooting, a Facebook comment, etc and not the systems of IR, IUC, and IC themselves. When you’re in a reactive mode of functioning it means you’re not aware of where you are or your surroundings.;Or that your self-esteem is not high enough to expect better before something extreme happens. It’s similar to being prodded in the dark with an electric shocker and jumping and yelling as a result until the pain subsides to normal acceptable levels. Then doing the same thing over again when the prodding continues.
A person who was aware of his or her surrounds and full of esteem and will to live would address the prodding and root it’s source to avoid further prodding, they wouldn’t just wait for the prodding and each time react, content with not knowing when or how often or where the prodding is coming from.
The other challenge with IR is how it affects people’s perceptions of each other. For example, most black people don’t realize that ‘white people’ are also affected by IR to the same magnitude as black people. Just relax for a second. No it doesn’t mean white people are being racially profiled in Arizona, but it does affect their ability to think rationally. It does affect their self-esteem to the same degree. It does increase their stress level and cause them to live in a constant state of fear and tension for their entire lives. So, no, white people are not being subjected to intermittent traumas like black men and children are, but they do suffer from sustained stress and tension. Yes, even white men.
This stress manifests as the many illnesses we see in western culture. It manifests as the need to take pharmaceutical drugs to maintain normal every day functioning from having sex, to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels to sleeping normally at night to regulating bladder function and the list goes on. It manifests as premature balding and graying. The problem is that many black people don’t see the effects of IR on the total population and stay focused on just their personal struggles, but get angered when white people do the same thing. If you’re not going to think outside of your own experience then why expect someone else to do the same thing? Why expect someone else to be on a higher spiritual level than you?
IR has everyone throwing stones at each other and endlessly pointing fingers even though both groups envy each other in a myriad of ways. I’m a metaphysician first by trade and I know what’s good for the goose is also good for the gander. There’s never been a statement any more true, but for some reason each group wants to play victim and point the finger when it’s obvious that both groups are suffering equally, but differently.
President Obama has been criticized for not doing more to address the Ferguson issue and those like it, but those criticisms are misguided. Eric Holder has been the most active Attorney General when it comes to reviewing civil rights cases. The President has been more than forthcoming on how black people can bring equality and prosperity to their communities –
- (a) organize on the grass roots level and
- (b) vote your people into office.
He’s done his job. He’s given out the keys to success, but you need to recognize our inability to implement his advice is due to our individual and collective lack of self-worth. It’s our inability to break free from the mental slumber resulting from IR.
We’ll all do ourselves a favor if we look at ourselves first when looking for both the problem or solution. What am I missing here? Am I really a victim and in complete subjugation to my environment and other human beings or am I not seeing the power I have as a creative being? It’s the only way to affect real and lasting change. I applaud the Brown’s for having come to that realization and understanding the solution for change goes beyond challenging the police in the streets of Ferguson with bottles and fire bombs. May Mike Brown rest in peace and may we all continue to wake from our collective slumbers as a nation.