Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On Wizardry and Bigotry: Why Minorities Should Chill Out (2 of 3)

Power Over Minds
Oppressors through the ages have sought for what whites, straights and men now have: the ability to open a deep wound in the soul of another with a single syllable. Back when we wielded physical whips, we had to exert ourselves to inflict pain, but not anymore. Whites have laid down the whip, but have taught blacks to whip themselves. Even the most ambitious KKK grand wizard could not have imagined so terrible a fate.

The vicious shrewdness of the oppressors has been to harness the corrosive power of hatred. I once heard someone describe revenge as a poison you take hoping it will kill your enemy. And the oppressors have convinced the oppressed to be drunk on the poison. Past injustices are always at the tip of the tongue of any minority group. Wounds were indeed given, but they were not cleaned with forgiveness and allowed to heal with time. Instead, the grit of bitterness remained in the wound, infecting it; the festering wound is left hidden in the darkness and uncovered whenever proof is needed of the guilt of the oppressor.

So long as minorities believe that the majority has psychic power over them, that we can injure with our words, we can. If every time I use a racial slur, I cause you psychological trauma, then I have more power than a plantation owner. But is this power irrevocable? Have the dastardly deeds of the white race finally resulted in ultimate victory? Permanent or not, it seems clear that I (and my kind) have achieved terrible power over minorities.

Part 1 - Background on Wizardry

Part 3 - The Way Forward


  1. This is an interesting topic. I was just thinking about it recently after having been the recipient of racial stereotyping by the mom of a friend of mine. I was thinking about why it still bothered me so much especially when I thought I had psychologically gotten over that sort of thing? I had long ago decided that when and if I encounter racisim, I would offer the hurt/offense up to Christ and pray that said person would grow in charity with the grace of God as such a thing certainly does not please Him. But why did I still feel the hurt even after so many weeks? Maybe because my friend is a strong Catholic as (I assume) are his parents so her behavior was surprising? Maybe because my friend and his parents are East Asian and objects of other people's stereotypes so I'd expect them to be less likely to act in such a way? But I think it's probably because such a thing has happened to me rather seldomly in my adult life that it always takes me by surprise when it does happen. However, that answer does not seem adequate either. If you allow me to speculate, I believe it is very similar to a situation I've witnessed in many female friends. I have a good Turkish friend who related an event that happened in her childhood, probably around age 12, where as she was walking down the street a man on a motorcycle somehow was able to reach his hand out in order to feel her chest as he was riding by. This happened years ago but is still seared in her memory and may cause her some emotional and psychological distress. Indeed, events in my past where someone had made a comment about me or tried to take similar advantage of me in a sexual way are still seared into my psyche even though years and years have passed. I believe that these instances and reactions are similar to racial sensitivity. Perhaps both sexual and racial hurts hit or activate the same neurological pathways. Perhaps because they both expose and take advantage of a basic part of our identities that God did not intend to be misused in such ways. When He created us, he created us beautifully with both a sexuality and an ethnicity that He deemed as good. Maybe those hurts we experience via racism and taking sexual advantage distorts this goodness? Anyways, this is the first time I've tried to organize my thoughts about this so I apologize if I seem to be rambling.

  2. Thank you for your ramblings! I admire efforts to honestly wrestle with a hard problem, whether organized or not.

    I hadn't thought about the connection between racial and sexual pain. I think you're right; both are causing psychological pain. In the case of your friend and the countless women who have been hurt sexually, the psychological violation and scarring comes after a physical violation. I have no experience in counselling sexual violations, but from my theology, I think full and complete forgiveness would probably be the way forward. With a racial slur, the wound is purely psychological, and so it might be possible to erect a psychological wall to completely prevent the pain.

    But what I'm suggesting here and in the next blog is not going to be quick. Most adults have spent multiple decades practicing hurting themselves in response to slurs; they're very good at it. It will take a lot of work to un-learn this, even assuming someone wants to.

    "Maybe those hurts we experience via racism and taking sexual advantage distorts this goodness?"

    I think you're right. And also I think much of the damage done in these situations can be prevented or reversed. Part of the distortion is the unforgiving soul and the mind which rehearses past pains.

  3. "Part of the distortion is the unforgiving soul and the mind which rehearses past pains."

    This is a really great point, and I completely agree. Perhaps I should see these situations as an opportunity to practice forgiveness. Perhaps God allows it so I and others can grow from them, to literally forgive and forget, but most importantly to learn to love those that hurt us.

    I once heard it said that we love our enemies to lead them to a conversion of heart. When I think about it, Christ went through a lot more humiliation than I could ever go through whether racial or sexual (by the way, there need not be any physical sexual violation to cause a psychological wound--luckily I've never had a physical violation, but I have experienced verbal violations including one instance of sexual pressure) yet He still forgave his enemies. And He continually forgives me for all my offenses against Him. Offenses I would have a hard time forgiving someone else who claimed to love me. So I guess I should remind myself to use Christ as a model of forgiving and forgetting, especially in situations where it's most difficult. Not to mention asking Him for the grace to get to that point. Ok, this rambling was very helpful! Did you say you wanted to be a psychologist at one point? You're certainly on your way :-)

  4. It's sad that an honest processing of one's thoughts and feelings is considered 'rambling'. Honest comments like these are exactly what we all need in real life as well as online.

    You're absolutely right about sexual violence possibly coming without physical violence. I was pointing out for purely psychological attacks, they can be defended psychologically. Physical violence can be defended physically.

    "I guess I should remind myself to use Christ as a model of forgiving and forgetting"

    I'd actually recommend you forgive and remember. Christ never 'forgot' about the cross or we who put Him there. His scars did not disappear; they were transformed through His resurrection. They became a part of Him. He forgave his torturers, and that which was His shame became His glory. I pray that we might learn to do the same with our scars.

  5. "..that which was His shame became His glory. I pray that we might learn to do the same with our scars."

    Yes! Very well said.

  6. Saw this just now, it reminded me of your post:

    "...exposing the truth about the expulsion of the Jews from Arab states could facilitate a genuine peace process, since it would enable Palestinians to realize they were not the only ones who suffered, and thus their sense of "victimization and rejectionism" will decline.",7340,L-3743829,00.html

  7. Very interesting indeed. Common suffering really can bring people together in a special way.