Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The Swamp of Racism

Last post was about the lotus in the swamp. Now about that swamp itself. (Boldface descriptions of swamps come from diverse sources online. Comments on connections to systemic racism are mine.)


• Swamps tend to attract a lot of insects, which can spread disease. 

We have all been infected by the sickness of racism. Every part of the story created to justify the institution of slavery has been spread by the priests, the scientists, the doctors, the teachers, the entertainers, like infectious mosquitoes and all of us without bug repellent.


• The sodden terrain can make traversing them on foot difficult. 

The watery undependable ground sucks us down, makes it hard to move forward, occasionally takes us all the way down into the quicksand. Most associations with swamps involve being stuck—bogged down, sinking in the muck and mire, in a quagmire. Almost 150 years after the end of chattel slavery, here we still are, inching toward more solid ground, but still trapped in the swamp of our purposefully created and sustained ignorance. 


• Many swamps are prone to heavy fog, which can make it easy to get lost.

The 70 million Americans who just voted for a future of relentless lies, refusal to condemn white supremacy, daily breaking the Presidential oath to uphold the Constitution and so much more, are lost in the fog, are blind and still can’t see—yet. (Luckily, 75 million received some degree of the Amazing Grace that allowed them to be “found.”)


• Some swamps are inhabited by dangerous animals—alligators, crocodiles, snakes.

Reptiles, who lay eggs and don’t nurture their young—and occasionally eat them!—have no heart, are cold-blooded and without emotion. We created a whole culture of human beings who preyed on fellow humans without an ounce of remorse—from the first slave-master to the most recent cop that murdered an innocent black person.


• Most swamps are drained to create space for human development.

Swamps actually have an important place in our eco-system, but not as happy places for people to live. While we can’t simply eliminate them, we can give the wetlands of our own ignorance, our own incapacity to welcome and understand the other, our own willingness to perpetuate our unearned power and privilege, a place to live that won’t dominate the ecology of our soul.


We all, without exception, have racism inside of us that we can’t ignore or simply wish away or casually drain it. But we can work with it, reduce its harm, recognize when it pulls us down into its dark waters. We can choose not to build our home there. 

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