Talking about racism doesn’t go well.

Recently, I read an article from the LA Times, in which woman talked about having been invited to a dinner specifically for the idea of discussing racism. Her summary is, “it didn’t go well.” Why was that? It seems that everyone had a narrative depending upon the color of their skin or their country of origin and had difficulty seeing the validity of anyone else’s narrative. Well, that’s the thing about narratives. They represent our justifications or explanations or our excuses for our lives being the way they are. Is there any hope for improving race relations by discussing race relations?

No, I don’t think so, but there are models of decent race relations we can consider. But first, we need to define what good race relations look like. Is it the so called color-blindness? No, we see someone’s color and automatically and often subconsciously make judgments. I do, and I immediately question and challenge my judgment. That is a key–challenging our own judgments! Here are some excerpts from the writer of the article:

The other black woman in the room spoke next. She looked to be in her 20s, like me, with a similar dark complexion. I presumed we would have comparable stories, but she told the group she had never experienced any overt forms of racism. I almost choked on my food. I spoke last, touching on the overt and covert racism that I experience every day in this city: the looks and stares I get walking down the street in my predominantly white neighborhood; how I wake up self-aware that the color of my skin is going to make my daily tasks that much harder; how appearing too black can be dangerous. There is a difference between tolerating blackness and accepting it. As we went further around the table, I found myself growing annoyed. Not to discredit anyone’s experiences, but I was surprised that not one person at the table had used the word privilege; the privilege of being a white man, or the privilege of being a black woman who can racially pass. Instead of being open about the ways in which they benefit from systemic injustice, everyone took a turn playing the victim.”

Notice her attitude. How much of her narrative is self-fulfilled expectations and how much is objective reality regardless of attitudes? What if the statement of the other woman who looks similar to her is true? What if it’s wishful thinking or a lie for mixed company? The point is, we really don’t know. She doesn’t know. How can anyone separate their interpretation of the “looks and stares” from her expectation that “the color of my skin is going to make my daily tasks that much harder; how appearing too black can be dangerous.” Racism certainly exists, but whose experience is more objective? Whenever a black couple shows up at our church, I and many other  melanin-challenged folks want to welcome them, and often begin that process by trying to adopt a welcoming expression. But who knows what they are thinking about those expressions? Does it have more to do with their expectations than our ability to convey welcome?

As for privilege, well what about it? So I’m privileged to be born in the United States, to be a white man, to be more healthy than not (other than being disabled walking and hearing). So what? If you are a black person in the “racist” United States, aren’t you privileged to be here rather than anywhere in Africa or the Middle East? If you have all your limbs, aren’t you more privileged than an amputee? The whole privilege narrative is really a lack of gratitude for what you have and are. It is whining. Shut it already.

As far as models of race relations, there are some: ministries and private schools where the races work together to better the lives of the disadvantaged and “non-privileged; military units in combat and performing missions together; missionaries and NGO’s which are working side by side to minister to the downtrodden in foreign lands; disabled veterans seasonal sports clinics, during which vets and volunteers of all races serve and love each other (I wrote a blog post about my own experience). These positive examples all have something in common: People with a mission to serve others! They probably don’t have time to discuss race relations, being too busy modeling those relations.

Would Universal Telepathy be a good thing?

In 1970, I read a short story by Robert Silverberg entitled “Passengers”. It was about alien beings who come to Earth and infect the minds of people, using their bodies as playthings. Now in 2018 I am reading another story entitled “Mind’s Eye”, about the successful implantation of electrodes in someone’s brain which allows him to have immediate access to everything on the internet, but with a side-effect, unexpected, of ESP. I immediately thought of a story I had read about a future method of criminal rehabilitation that isolated criminals in habitats with only other criminals, who had been convicted of similar crimes. The idea was to create empathy for their victims by making them experience being victims.

You might wonder what such an idea–that of creating empathy for victims by having the criminal experience being a victim–has to do with universal ESP, or telepathy, which I use interchangeably with ESP.  Empathy–the ability to understand and share the feelings of another–isn’t necessarily a good thing, and therefore, universal empathy could destabilize all relationships. The one guy in the story who has that ability, due to having survived the implant procedure, is on the run from various factions who want to kill him. Why? Universal empathy can be dangerous. As one of the principals after him put it, “his ESP ability is an extinction-level event.” Is it? Would universal telepathy be a good thing? My questions:

1. Are ugly, violent, hateful thoughts more prevalent than kind, compassionate, loving thoughts?
2. If so, why? Is it because that is how people are, or because of the frustrations and betrayals in their lives, or because tearing others down makes us feel better about our own lives?
3. If we knew others could read our thoughts, would that knowledge inhibit negative thoughts? Would it increase positive thoughts? Or would we kill each other?
4. How much control do we, or can we, exert on our thoughts?
5. What are thoughts exactly, beyond neurons and chemical transmitters connecting them? Are all conscious thoughts encoded in language, that is, do we speak them? What is the difference between conscious, spoken thoughts and voluntary muscle movements which we execute continuously without verbalizing? What is the difference between unconscious and conscious thoughts?
6. Could we ever get to the point of forgiving and excusing the negative thoughts of others about us, so as not to destroy our relationships? What if the thoughts of other people about us are actually more truthful than what they verbalize? Could we acknowledge the truth and forgive, rather than hiding behind our facade?
7. If the answers to the last question were yes, wouldn’t our existence be improved?
8. What then is more likely, universal telepathy leads to more open, truthful, healthy relationships or destroys our world when people can’t handle either truth or negativity?
9. What if there were a reliable way to distinguish people who could accept judgment about themselves and still forgive (let’s call them the “forgivers”), from those who would react violently to being judged (let’s call them the “reacters”)?
10. If such a method were ever developed, would it then make sense to separate the “forgivers” from the “reacters” on the basis that the reacters will destroy each other and civilization unless they are somehow reeducated?
11. Since the reacters would doubtless be the super majority, isn’t it more likely under the universal telepathy scenario that they would want to kill the forgivers?

Wish you could read minds? How do you feel about your secrets being exposed? If you think social media violates privacy, you ain’t seen nothing yet.