Apr 11, 2013 - Issue 512

 BlackCommentator.com: Our Black Cul-de-Sac - Nafsi ya Jamii - By Wilson Riles - BC Columnist

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My friends, you should batten down the hatches. This country - and I do mean the country - has worked itself into a massively destructive national psychological cul-de-sac. The seemingly impenetrable walls of this cul-de-sac are constructed of the lies and the mythology that some of us tell each other and have told each other for too long. Human social psychology is such that when we work so hard to cover up a lie or to pump-up a myth, our brains create thought patterns that retard in-sight from penetrating what has been constructed. We easily skip over the markers that separate fiction from reality. We cling to false assumptions - prejudices - that help us maintain illusion. The dominant culture - in words, with assumptions, through stories, and unmitigated emotions - short-circuit critical thinking. By brain evolution, some deep emotional processes can short-circuit the participation of the forebrain. Without the many-sided prospective testing of the forebrain, lies and illusions are encrusted and protected.

These are then passed on to other contemporaries and passed down to subsequent generations. This social-psychological-cultural encrustation resists exposure, most vigorously because our personal identities get tangled up in the construction, we massage our egos with lies. And at the subconscious level - down deep where our sense of identity presides - we are threatened by contrary points of view. We are twice threatened by any fractional emergence of feelings of guilt. In Western society guilt is often followed by punishment or retribution rather than redemption and enlightenment.

Manipulative, authoritarian social structures - like some religions, like some family traditions, like some political organizations - use this guilt/punishment dynamic to corral members into obedience and acceptance of illusion. Those of us who are raised from childhood in such structures find it very difficult to escape the illusions. Often, it will take some peak or intense experience which hangs with us to allow the possibility of puncturing the illusion. Living with counter examples will help but is not guaranteed to succeed; note the many racists who will say “my good friends are…but he/she is the exception.” When minds are so captured by illusion, there is no need for cabals or Trilateral Commissions. The culture and our minds do all the work that is needed. Reporters and assignment editors need almost no “push” from their capitalist commercial bosses because they lack the critical thinking abilities to challenge the illusions.

Frequently, we are freed from illusion by coming into contact or by building a relationship with someone who is “like us” and who has escaped the illusion and not been crippled or disappeared. Sometimes it takes knowledge that forgiveness and a “life” is on the other side of the illusion. Admitting guilt is much easier if one can appreciate that there might be light on the other side. It is in fact better if that road to forgiveness is a bit of a challenge. If there is no challenge, the words may be said but there will be little change of heart or mind; the illusion will persist. It will be voiced less.

That is the nature of the mythology of racism for most people in this country. Hearts and minds have not changed much; racism is just not voiced much. Consciously, unconsciously, and institutionally, racism continues. Lethal discrimination remains largely unabated bolstered by basically the same illusions of superiority and inferiority. The US has had no real process of puncturing racist illusions neither through the Civil War nor through the turmoil of the Civil Rights Struggle. Too many pockets of racism remained and continued to proliferate, albeit more subtly and clandestinely. There is no firm, nationally recognized stand against the illusions that underpin racism; there are only the disfavor and frowns at its open naked expressions. Whites are still fully presented as superior and blacks are frequently displayed as inferior.

Because of the election of Barack Obama, this racism illusion is now buried so deeply in the national psyche that it might never surface again! The Country might acquiesce that a black man was a reasonably capable President but that acceptance can be done without puncturing the illusion that blacks in general are inferior. Even blacks will find it difficult to surface the racist illusions. We will be confronted with the nearly impenetrable wall of “why can’t you just be like Barack.” Whites and those who have bought into the status quo will continue to believe that if only blacks would change, things would be alright. No white person will understand that it is the general societal illusions that will have to change. Few will be confronted with the untruth of the superiority illusion. This idiocy is so intertwined with history, so deeply embedded in societal institutions, and so deep in individual psychic identity structures that it will not surface again. This is a recipe for disaster.

As African Americans do battle with the education system, the criminal justice system, the economic system, and the media systems we will feel like we are stuck in a cul-de-sac. No easy opening will present itself. Almost any institutional, societal movement will more negatively affect the black community. Our only chance is radical change of the whole society. That will take more than we alone are capable of accomplishing. Batten down the hatches. Gird your loins. Let’s get about recruiting others and doing what we will have to do: bring about deep and radical societal change.

BlackCommentator.com Columnist, Wilson Riles, is a former Oakland, CA City Council Member. Click here to contact Mr. Riles.