Water Man Spouts

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Synergism of Hatred

"Pain is pain, suffering is suffering -- whether being wrongly imprisoned, wrongly placed in a concentration camp, or wrongly abused as a child. But pain is a component of suffering, not suffering itself. There are no degrees of suffering." -- Rubin "Hurricane" Carter

The pain and suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina, and encreased and enhanced by the poor response by the Bush administration, has resulted in a discussion on the issues of race and class. In the past few days, I have participated in a number of such discussions and debates, including on the Democratic Underground forum. In one such discussion, I noted that class is determined by race in America. Certainly race is not the exclusive factor in determining social class. But when we find, for example, that blacks have the highest infant mortality rates and the shortest life expectancy, we can safely say that being black is directly connected to social class status in the USA.

Further, statistics show that approximately one out of three young black males is either on probation, parole, or incarcerated in this country. This would indicate that being black is directly connected to class in America. It also reminded me of a conversation I took part in with Rubin Carter on 2-26-2001 at Colgate University in upstate New York.

Rubin was incarcerated for 20 years for a brutal triple murder that occurred in a time of racial unrest in Paterson, New Jersey. After two decades, a federal court overturned Carter's conviction, ruling that it was based upon appeals to racism, rather than actual evidence of guilt. Indeed, investigatons into the crime and Carter's extensive court case showed that he had nothing to do with the murders.

How does one respond to being falsely convicted of a terrible crime, labled as a racist mass-murderer, and sentenced to triple life in prison? Rubin was determined to maintain his sense of dignity, and to live as a free man inside the concrete walls and steel bars of the prison. He would spend close to half of that time in solitary confinement, because he refused to behave like an "inmate."

When you are living in total darkness, he told me, you cannot look out; therefore, you must look in. In that unnatural darkness, he was able to stop thinking of people in terms of black or white. He recognized that any system that discriminates against human beings because of race, class, religion, or other related issues, was based upon hatred. And that hatred contaminates the vessel which contains it. Hatred destroys itself and the host, like a cancer.

Any system which discriminates against human beings in this manner is criminal. But it doesn't only put the hateful person's mind in shackles: it creates a system that imprisons its victims in a cycle of ignorance, poverty, drug abuse, and violence. It creates a social underclass, and the concepts of race, class, sexual orientation, religion, age, and gender create a synergism of hatred.

Discussions of racism are always uncomfortable. Rubin noted that in every audience, when he says "racism," white folks tend to react by saying, "Not me!," while black people simply duck. Now this doesn't imply that all, or even most, white people are racists. Or that only blacks are victims. But it does mean that our system has built-in racism, and that it can be found in the White House, the Congress, the Senate, and the Supreme Court on the federal level. And it is found in state houses and in school houses.

Rubin said that he recognized that those who say there are races actually are in error. There is no such thing as "race." It is a man-made concept that divides people, but it has no scientific value or spiritual truth. There is only one race: the human race. One race, one people, one family, one spirit, one life, and one love. This has been the message of enlightened human beings from around the globe throughout human history.

We tend to think of skin color as defining "race." Yet this does not hold up under any objective examination of the hman family. Indeed, the human family is composed of extended families, known as clans, which then form tribes. And, in the global sense, there are now six main Tribes of the Human Family.

In general terms, there is the White Tribe, which has gained a degree of control in the competition between trbes a few centuries ago. The White Tribe has some competition within itself, of course. The French may hate the Germans who hate the English who hate the Irish; however, when one is threatened by a non-white tribe, they unite and fight.Still, it seems unlikely that the White Tribe will remain in any exclusive control for long.

There is the Yellow Tribe, that is gaining control in the economic world. The White Tribe's only real advantage today seems to be WMDs, that the Yellow Tribe knows the White Tribe is willing to use.

The Red Tribes have largely been decimated. The Lakota (Sioux) Nation, in the North & South Dakota area, exist in largely "third world" conditions. Being born a Lakota surely has much to do with social status, or "class."

The Brown Tribe is growing, and beginning to control their lands and resources. Was the Bush invasion of Iraq based on race? Class? Religion? Is it possible to agree it is the synergism of hatred that has killed thousands of inocent civilians in Iraq?

Rubin said that for centuries, the Black Tribe was mentally decimated. Yet today, in this country, the most humane leadership on the federal level tends to be that provided by the Congressional Black Caucus.

The sixth tribe is the "mixed" people, who have heritage from a combination of two or more of the other five. They may most closely represent the return to our common ancestors.

The Six Tribes are in competition for the world's resources. And, Rubin noted, while competition brings out the best in products, it brings out the worst in people. No one, the good Hurricane reminded us, asks to be born, or chooses their circumstances in terms of color or class. Rather, we are born trapped in happenstance.

Rubin recited a wonderful poem, and I do not recall it fully. But bear with me: There were six people trapped in that worldy happenstance, in a cold and often cruel reality, where they sat around a dying fire, each with a stick of wood.

The first looked around the circle beyond that fire, and selfishly held his stick back; he felt uncomfortable being white, while the other five were a shade of black.

The second was ready to share, until he saw the others were not from his church; feeling the growing cold made him hold more tightly to his stick of birch.

The third recognized no one, as having helped him when he lived in a ditch; he was angry at the very thought, of sharing with the rich.

The fourth was a wealthy man, who had sold sticks in his store; he found it foolish to think, his stick should warm the shiftless poor.

The fifth watched the embers as the fire faded from sight; he grasped his stick with thoughts of fighting the hated white.

The sixth man sat and decided he would not join the others' games; instead he sat and watched the fire of life, extinguished with the flames.

The lesson of the poem, Rubin said, was that the six people did not die from the cold without, they dies from the cold within.

It is a sad fact that there would have been widespread suffering and death from Hurricane Katrina, no matter what anyone did in the 72 hours before it struck. And that is because we have been divided by foolish things for so many years. We are divided by concepts such as race, class, gender, age, and at times things like hair styles.

At the same time, we see a powerful force in New Orleans. It is human compassion. We see the strength of human kindness. We see the potential for a reconciliation within this human family. Yet while we can reconcile with others, we must first find peace within ourselves.

The myth of racism is a sickness. It is, like classism, a cancerous hate. We must be alert to the dangers it presents. To do so requires that we wake up to our humanity. It demands that we recognize our own personal worth, and then the worth of our brothers and sisters. We can transcend the terror of today with the power of love.

Peace to you,
Water Man


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