Starving the Tree of Racism or Reparations on a Psychological Level: How Seemingly Benign Values and Beliefs Feed Racism

Strange Tree

“We know the predator. We see them feed on us. We are aware to starve the beast is our destiny.”
— John Trudell

Dear fellow white men, but I hope others stick around as a Greek chorus.

An honest recognition of this culture’s history of treachery, kidnapping, torture, and murder is needed to read this. An acceptance of the need for cultural and personal reparations. This is my fundamental starting point. So I’m essentially only speaking to those white men who recognize this need for cultural and psychological reparations.

But I’m only going to speak here about personal or psychological reparations. Without this primary reparation of our own damaged psyche, any cultural reparations will be resisted or at least undermined by this lingering sickness.

In other words, I’m arguing that we can’t solely focus on stopping overt racists, or eliminating the racism and sexism baked into our institutions. These are necessary goals of course. But ultimately we won’t be very helpful if we don’t simultaneously (and primarily) work to expose the subtlest roots of racism in ourselves. And if we dig deeply enough we discover that we’re contributing to this violence through our identification with many of this society’s seemingly benign (but in fact toxic) values.

Magnification, Not Abstraction

I feel that poisonous minerals of racism seep into our bones microscopically through values that often appear innocuous and beneficial. But it might not seem practical or relevant to talk about these subtleties at first, because this can feel like an escape into abstractions from more pressing racial problems. But these are magnified examinations of the subtle roots of racism, not abstractions.

Nevertheless, it feels like I’m asking readers to pause for a moment in rescuing the drowning people downstream. But I don’t feel anything can be resolved downstream. I think we need to discover the deepest source of the problem, which remains hidden in us.Read More »