Trust but verify…
“Trust but verify…” Said Beth the other day in response to a dialogue on Facebook resulting from my posting a news story with a photo of a squadron of police taking a knee as they faced a band of protesters.
The phrase came to me again this morning as I wondered in reflection on Caitlin’s assertion that the most important thing we can do right now as “white” people is look to, face, and respond to our “White Privilege.”
I imagined that if one, me, one, has privilege that must justly be reconciled with the world, there is some responsibility I must hold to see and face that privilege myself. What does it mean? How does it show up? Is there justice in it, or does it create injustice? Can it do both? What questions even must I ask of myself?
If I have done this work, or believe that I have, whom shall I trust to assert the validity of that? How shall I verify whether or not I am continuing in my heart to perpetuate some unconscionable injustice, or whether I am clear, know the path, and may offer help to others?
Caitlin’s heart, as I may have mentioned, and as are many of our hearts, is quite broken right now. Her strength in the matter is unquestionable, a “soul contract” she called it, to stand for what she knows is right, and to give voice and aid to the movement for justice.
When she arrived in my room today, we started speaking on the subject and she expressed her concern that people, white people in particular, might be meeting this moment of legitimate outrage by attempting to engage and then finding confusion and going quiet and perhaps even numb.
The conversation did not go smoothly. It went long; nearly an hour. There is so much complexity in the subjects at hand, and also so much simplicity. There is complicity and resistance and ignorance in all of us and yet we must not question the legitimate simple truth that Black Lives Matter. Of course Native American, First Nations Peoples lives matter as well, of course life matters.
Where do each of us stand in our own reflection in this moment in history? What values drive us to step into that asana and hold that place? Where did those values come from, and what history do they represent?
Speaking with Vu and Courtney last evening, I struck upon a certain perspective about America. This perspective strikes close to my home and values about development. In essence, the founding documents of America represent a movement of what some of us referr to as rational, objective, modernity. Of course that “objectivity” can be unpacked quite deeply, but that is another subject.
In the generally accepted histories of the world, much of white cultures and civilizations were distinctly “pre-rational,” up until the point of the Enlightenment when individual autonomy and objective thinking first issued its substantive resistance to the supreme authority and rule of religion.
In Europe, and really anywhere else in the world where this quality of third person rational objectivity was born into a society, it was born out of a social, political, and cultural milieu that was deeply steeped in its own second person collective, subjective, coherence, i.e. tribal/mythic/ideological culture. What these coherent evolutions produced is really a subject at this point for historians and other cultural philosophers and academicians.
There is mostly no one alive today in the world who did not live through the second condition which I will now consider.
America was founded on an ideology of rational objectivity, the rule of rights and laws universal to all, and as long as you didn’t manage to fall into any externalized group not included in “all” these rights and privileges were designed for and inured to you.
To be clear, women and children of any race, Native Americans – though many of the adopted ideals came from them –, and Blacks indeed, nearly, if not all BIPOC qualified and often still qualify for the externalized group.
And so was born in the ecosystem of the world, an isolated petri dish where the IDEA of a pure and unadulterated rational objectivism could grow, and indeed in its own right, flourish, unfettered from any deep roots that might threaten to contextualize and so hold accountable to ancient values of hearts and hearth, the emergent ideology that would ensue.
In the subsequent centuries, this rarefied Rational Puritanism would spread like spores on the wind throughout the world, colonizing any soil that would not vehemently reject it, and even some of those that tried.
“Rational Objectivism,” and its market counterpart, capitalism appear differently around the world depending on the nature of the cultural soil in which those manifestations arose and grew.
In America, we have in a terrible and terrific way wiped clear the slate of the native heritage of this land, disconnected from roots left continents away (often for good reason – the latter, not the former) and from that bare soil of novelty, grew a unique brand of this once new but now well seasoned evolutionary expression.
So as an American, indeed, a white male American, the established “wealth” from which I grew, the laws, the technologies, the infrastructure, and yes the values, all emerged in a rather unadulterated sense from that early petri dish of ideology.
Where in my own journey of inquiry, have I been able to “see through” the cultural constructions arising within that ideology? Where in my own journey of inquiry have I been able to “see through” the constructed nature of that culture itself? Indeed, have I at all, and if so, by what major and to what degree, and whom shall I consult to verify that I have in fact broken out of the hall of mirrors?
We might offer at times, that it is enough to step into our hearts and remember the goodness, to spread love and prayers wherever we go, and yes, that is enough, at times, and in ways. Still we must not forget the innumerable counts of broken bodies, stolen beings, atrocities against heart and hearth, love and prayers, indeed goodness itself, that arises still today.
Who must I be? What aspects of that self must I surrender, what parts of our lives and our world is based in a privilege that makes no account for those externalized from our good fortune of simply being here, alive, with one another, in care, today?
Sunday, June 28, UPDATE — this morning I received a pleasant note from a woman who had found this blog post while searching for current information on the #BlackLivesMatter situation. She asked if I would please link to her organization’s article, #BlackLivesMatter: How to Support Black-Owned Small Businesses. I thought that would be appropriate and so I have. 🙂
God gets to know things, we just get to ask questions…