I went to see the movie, Selma, last week and it brought me to my knees. Seeing the horrific acts of violence the white man perpetrated against their black brothers cut into my heart. It’s not that I didn’t know this happened, because I remember Selma, Birmingham, and Montgomery. I lived in the south during those times but I lacked awareness. I was ignorant of the struggle of black society.
I grew up in a small town outside of New Orleans where the black people had their own community called Diamond. We had a black woman who worked for us. She came on Monday and did the laundry and on Tuesday she ironed. She cleaned our house and helped with meals. In my mind, she was a member of the family and I loved her.
Because my family was prejudiced, I knew she and I were different. I understood from my family that we were supposed to be better; we were smarter, we had more money, we smelled better and we were white. God loved us more, black people were not allowed in heaven because obviously heaven was segregated, and privilege belonged to us. Even though I heard the words and felt the attitudes of the whites towards the blacks, it somehow did not penetrate my being.
Being white, my life experience was different than that of the black people. I did not comprehend their struggle for freedom and respect, for equality and dignity . A whole segment of the human race was being set apart as less than and I did not even notice. I saw it, I read about it, and on some level I knew it was happening, but it did not register in my soul. It had not touched me and so it was not about me.
As I have matured, I have grown in my understanding of what the black community has endured, and in many cases is still enduring. I’ve seen that our differences go way beyond skin color; they go into the heart of the issue which is the huge difference between our life attitudes and experiences. Whites believed they were superior and their goal was to make blacks believe they were inferior. We pounded it into them using religion, self-righteousness, and the whip. God help us all!
There is a branch of science called family pathology, which is about family characteristics passing down from one generation to the next. This pathology includes our emotional, psychological, and spiritual attitudes, experiences, and beliefs. It is part of our DNA. We inherit it.
It is too easy to say, “I didn’t do that to the black people. I was not even alive during slavery. Don’t blame me for what happened.” This is true. I was not alive during those days either. However, because of family pathology, the white-person attitudes, prejudices, and beliefs are still alive in our DNA. And, it is alive in the DNA of the black community also.
Though years have passed since the days of slavery, many black people still feel the sting, and many white people think they should just “suck it up and get over it.” I don’t think it’s that simple and I don’t know that we just get over a gross injustice.
In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say the white man has incurred a huge karmic debt. This is not a debt I personally incurred, but it is part of the pathology of our families and our nation. It is in the energy we live in and the breath we breathe. It is in the molecules and atoms that make up our life.
We cannot pay this debt with money. The only currency that can be used is sensitivity, respect, kindness, compassion, love, and a heart filled with the absolute truth that we are all one family and all connected. It is not them and us, it is we. We are all part of the great healing that needs to take place in our country. Together in love, we stand; divided in ignorance, we fall.