“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.” ― C.G. Jung, The Philosophical Tree
At the Women’s Spiritual Growth Group the other week, we chewed over the questions, Cosmically speaking, where are we headed? Is creation on a trajectory, or are we all just wandering around killing time? Are we going somewhere good, or will it be more like Armageddon followed by nothingness?
The questions grew out of our current book, Richard Rohr’s The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe. In Chapter 7, Rohr argues that, cosmically speaking, we are indeed going somewhere good; that a recurring pattern of life, death, and resurrection in all creation is constantly moving toward wholeness; and that “the clear and full trajectory of the world we know is an unfolding of consciousness with “all creation groaning in this one great act of giving birth (Romans 8:22).”
We are groaning now, that’s for sure. And we—me and others like me, anyway—are being nudged toward greater consciousness. Explicitly nudged to educate ourselves, from impatient voices in the national scene to our black and brown friends. Kindly get up to speed, white people.
I admit to resisting the nudges in the initial going. After the horrific murder of George Floyd came to light and the Black Lives Matter movement blossomed like ten thousand spring meadows, I still couldn’t see myself needing a lot of consciousness-raising. I already agreed that black lives matter as much as white lives do, and that on many levels our society doesn’t support that truth. In the media, I’d seen the disparity played out with a vengeance in the legal system, all the way from first contact through arrest, interrogation, trial, sentencing, incarceration, parole, and beyond. I knew the oppression had been going on for a long time. I felt despair about whether real change could happen and helpless about doing anything meaningful about it myself. So … what else do I need to know?
I’m closing in on 70 years of age. Unlike those who heartily assure me that 70 is the new 50, I’ve been liking the idea that I’ll stroll quietly into a peaceful old age. Putter around the house. Garden as long as my body stands up for it. Dabble with little art projects. Re-read murder mysteries I’ve already read before.
Taking to the street and marching for justice didn’t appear in any of those daydreams.
Then, a friend I care about who is also a person of color gave me a nudge. Gave it to me and other members of my extended white family, which she had recently joined in a great leap of faith. Nudged us via an email that included a list of suggested reading and viewing material, the list long enough to trigger my resistance, but conveyed with straightforward and loving words that made me say to myself, Look, Margaret, this really matters. Right? You do know this matters, don’t you?
So, I checked out her list. Clicked on some links. Watched some video, read articles, studied statistics. Learned new stuff. Started to see from another perspective what I thought I already knew, and it looked different from that other perspective. For one thing, it came to me that the story wasn’t just about other people, those bad actors and their victims I read about in the media. The story is also about me.
“Whatever white people do not know about Negroes reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves.–James Baldwin, “Letter from a Region in my Mind,” 1962 (New Yorker Magazine).
Some of the links in my new family member’s email led to book lists for suggested reading. I’d just finished re-reading John Sandford’s “Prey” series and was considering picking up Ruth Rendell again. Could I set aside Inspector Wexford for this?
Well … yeah. (“You know this matters, don’t you?”) Yeah, I could.
So I ran my eyes down lists of books for those seeking education. Books about race, history, justice, and the human condition, most written within the last five years, many by authors who were new to me. I briefly fell into a too-many-choices-freeze-frame, where I got rescued by a niece who suggested we form a family book group and start with Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. Excellent! Thank you! I’m in!
And the good news: Stamped from the Beginning turns out to be a page-turner. After a prelude and first couple of chapters that kinda made me gulp, given the heft of this 500+ page scholarly work, Kendi finds his pace and serves up a thriller—a hair-raiser. He dishes out American history the way I definitely did not learn it from Mrs. Shedd’s junior year history class at Sidney High School. I’m about halfway through it now, past the Civil War and the tragically lost chance of Reconstruction. Though I know, in broad terms, what’s coming, still I must leave you now, dear friends, to go back to my reading.
Will pick up this thread again at a later time…
Looking for some education? For a quick intro to systemic racism, here’s a link to a short YouTube video that helped me see how the story is also about me:
And if you like to pick and choose, here’s a couple of links to broad ranges of possibilities. Don’t let the sheer volume catch you in a too-many-options-freeze-frame! Just click on something and check it out. If it doesn’t hook you, click on something else. Happy reading and viewing.
Antiracist Allyship Starter Pack:
Black History Month Library: