Black lives matter more? Of course. Unless black lives matter more, they will continue to matter less, which is the whole issue.
Racism is one of the weirdest habits of human beings. If ever you wanted proof of our insanity, our attitudes to skin color are all you would need to look at, even if we weren’t all descendants of the same African super grandma!
It is a worldwide phenomenon, but its most graphic expression is in the Americas.
Just about every culture has been involved in some kind of genocide in its history, but to be involved in two genocides in five hundred years! – that is US-American exceptionalism for sure. First, the European arrivals practically wiped out the indigenous population. So many died, about 50 million people, that it significantly contributed to a global cooling event known as “The Little Ice Age.” The number of trees that would have been cleared by the indigenous population was reduced so much that the resultant increase in green foliage in North America reduced the global CO2 level.
White Christian Europeans then dragged some 15 million men, women, and children from Africa to the Americas in chains.
About 3 million people died from the horrors of the journey and about half a million Africans were sold to the North American slave owners. That doesn’t account for the many millions more who died before the journey even began.
At some point in the future, people will look back on our contemporary madness and cruelty towards each other with complete incomprehension. Just like today we look back on past barbarities, like cannibalism, human slavery, or public hangings…. Wait a minute, “Look back?” Isn’t this still happening?
Let’s see – because that is exactly what gives this issue its poignancy.
The Holocaust is one of the greatest stains on the human record.
Even within the narrow legal definition of genocide, (which must be the longest page on Wikipedia!), there are so many other horrors on the list, resulting in so many millions of deaths. Lists that don’t even include the allied bombing of German cities in the second world war. Or Hiroshima or Nagasaki? Or the wars in Vietnam or Iraq? Or the millions who died in the famines after The Great Leap Forward in China, or during the horrors of the Soviet Union, or during the atrocities of the Congo Free State? All clearly crimes against humanity, whatever the law books say, or don’t say.
What gives today’s racism such a gut-wrenching impact is that it is a genocide that still hasn’t ended. It is not that the Germans tell us that they only gas the occasional Jew these days. Or the Americans haven’t killed anyone from Hiroshima in a while now. Or that the Belgians hardly ever amputate any limbs of the Congolese nowadays…. But that is exactly what is happening in the USA today. The tail of that same racist genocide fills the air that every US-American breathes.
James Baldwin, in his brilliant speech in Berkley in 1979, expressed it with such elegant precision:
“A very brutal thing must be said, must be said. The intentions of this melancholy country, as it concerns black people – and anyone who doubts me can ask any Indian – have always been genocidal. They needed us for labor and for sport. And now they can’t get rid of us.
“We cannot be exiled. And we cannot be accommodated. Now, something’s got to give. The machinery of this country, operates day in day out, hour by hour, until this hour, to keep the nigger in his place.”
White US-Americans – whether by acts of commission or omission – are essentially sanctioning the prolongation of hundreds of years of black slavery, albeit often in a more “plausibly deniable” fashion. “Just a few rotten apples in the police force” is the most glaring example of this charade as some kind of excuse for the recent public execution of George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis. Here is a more honest version: “Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop.”
Almost every element of US life is still rigged against black people.
Which is then denied.
Robin DiAngelo describes how “White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress. This insulated environment of racial protection builds white expectations for racial comfort while at the same time lowering the ability to tolerate racial stress, leading to what I refer to as ‘White Fragility.’”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, during the first year of Barak Obama’s presidency, the neo-Nazi, Stormfront registered nearly 100,000 new users, a fivefold increase. The center reported an eightfold increase in anti-government “patriot” groups during Obama’s first four years in office. In 2019, there were nearly 1000 active hate groups in the US, which have grown by 55% in the Trump era. Testifying before Congress in February 2020, the SPLC described how “the white supremacist movement in the United States is surging,” including in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Compare the Confederate-friendly rantings of Trump with the sensitivity of the President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, for example, who says of his country, “This is a country you can only love with a broken heart.”
Or with the withering words of Caroline Randall Williams, the poet who describes the light-brown-blackness of her skin as “rape colored.” She asks, “You want a Confederate monument? My body is a confederate monument.” As she explains, “I am a black, Southern woman, and of my immediate white male ancestors, all of them were rapists. My very existence is a relic of slavery and Jim Crow.”
Of course, racism is institutionalized. But that doesn’t answer any questions. Yes, the system is sick, but it is we humans who make these systems. And why?
As Osho often explains, the sicknesses of society are only a reflection of man’s own inner sickness:
“These are the projections of his own inner conflict. He is not one within, that’s why he could not create one society, one humanity outside. The cause is not outside. The outside is only the reflection of the inner man.” 1
Iceland provides a cautionary example of failing to understand this basic Osho insight. Described as “the best place in the world to be a woman” because they have pretty much fixed the external manifestations of misogyny – but the misogyny goes on.
The US-Americans have not even done that much – their system remains riddled with glaring inequities.
As Angela Davis writes in her stunning book, Women, Race & Class, “The mystifying powers of racism often emanate from its irrational, topsy-turvy logic.”
Racism causes so many wounds, and wounds so many people, that it is critical that we do our best to understand that “irrational, topsy-turvy logic” – so this insanity can be left behind in the garbage bin of history where it belongs. Assuming we have any pretensions to ever being civilized.
However, the rational part is not mystifying at all. Over 20 years ago, Felicia Pratto, Professor of Psychological Sciences at the University of Connecticut, laid out this whole subject in exquisite detail (page 191 onwards). Essentially “the system” is hierarchical, which creates the situation for experiences that reinforce hierarchical behavior in people. This behavior in turn reinforces the hierarchy, in an endless dialectical sorry-go-round.
As Pratto points out, if you want to know who is pushed to the bottom of the pile in any culture, then just look at who is locked up in prison. Whether it is indigenous people in Australia or the USA, or black people in the USA, the mechanism works like clockwork.
For example, she writes, “In California, there are more than five times as many young African-American males under the control of the criminal justice system as African-Americans of all ages enrolled in four-year college programs.
“And almost 40% of California’s young African-American males are either in prison, on parole or probation or wanted by the police.”
So all the information US-Americans needed to address these issues was easily available, had anybody been interested. Not only that, but the US government’s own report from 50 years ago also made clear where the real problem lay – even though the findings of the published version were ignored, and the original version was suppressed! Or maybe all anyone needs to do is read the Wikipedia page on Racism in the United States of America – then you won’t know whether to throw up your hands, or your dinner!
So, here is our first key to unlocking this madness. At least the Icelanders did their best to deal with the externalities, while the US-Americans have done pathetically little. Whose fault is that? Ultimately the politicians. They are the ones with the power to change the rigged rules of the game, but they are only interested in their re-election. For that, they have to pander to money – which is basically in white hands – to buy ads to impress a mainly white electorate. So it goes on and on.
Not only have generations of politicians failed to undertake the most obvious external measures required, the White House today spews out white-supremacist, Confederate poison. A good example is Trump’s Secretary of State, Pompeo. The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, recently published an article, “Mike Pompeo, Enemy of American Values.” They summarized his views as “combining the racism of the 19th century with the theocracy of the 14th century, and leavening it with rewriting much of the history that happened in between.”
Not to mention Trumps’ own clearly fascist display, which you can see analyzed here.
Even establishment magazines like Foreign Policy are headlining such articles as, “Trump’s Mount Rushmore Speech Is the Closest He’s Come to Fascism,” and Professor Timothy Snyder’s article, “In Portland, the Baby Fascists Have Shown Their Face,” which concludes: “Fascism can happen in America. Some of it has already happened, and more will happen as Trump fights to stay in power.”
And what are those “situational experiences” that Pratto identifies which keeps this white electorate so robotically stuck in such crude mindsets?
You may have heard of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre. In most cultures, such a shameful atrocity by a white racist mob would be burned on the common memory. Not in the U.S. Like most of the rest of its real history, it is hidden from sight and as Katie Couric explains in, “The Biggest ‘Lies’ We’re Taught About U.S. History,” censored from school textbooks.
You can see the same white racist mob, in the same city of Tulsa, today.
They were primitive savages one hundred years ago.
Are they any different today?
As we observe this elegant, composed man, being assaulted by this sad Tulsa crowd, we are reminded of another key to understanding what lies behind this whole pathetic display. Which may provide an answer to that “irrational, topsy-turvy logic” that Angela Davis describes. That key is that maybe whites fear that blacks might outclass them, given half a chance? A chance that has to be denied at all costs. Perhaps the whole absurdity of white supremacy is simply the irrational fear that it is they, the whites, who are really the inferior ones? Otherwise, why are they so agitated and violent about needing to declare their superiority?
As Osho explains:
“A person who needs to be superior to feel good is a person who is carrying a volcano within him. A person who has to be superior to feel happy is suffering deep down from an inferiority complex. Only an inferior person thinks in terms of superiority. A real person, an authentic person, is neither superior nor inferior. He simply is – unique; nobody is lower than him and nobody is higher than him.” 2
“Whenever a country or a man or a race suffers from an inferiority complex, it starts pretending to be superior. The superiority complex is a way to avoid one’s inferiority complex; it is a camouflage.”3
It is exactly the same psychological process that leads men to need to dominate women.
“It is the long condemnation of feminine qualities that has gone deep into the blood and the bones of women. It is man’s conspiracy to prove himself superior to women – which he is not.” 4
To Be Continued: Black Lives Matter More – Part 2
To continue reading and see all available formats of these OSHO Talks:
1 Osho, Light on the Path, Talk #30 – Utopia Is Possible
2 Osho, Tao: The Pathless Path, Series 1, Talk #3 – Joy Has No Cause
3 Osho, The Secret, Talk #14 – Rebellion through Understanding
4 Osho, Sermons in Stones, Talk #17 – The Poetry of the Feminine