In the current postmodern cultural zeitgeist, few people are interested in what I, a middle aged heterosexual white male, has to say about the topic of racism. If that’s you, I understand. This blog post is not for you. This is for me, and for those who know me, either personally or through my online writing. It is to offer my honest, and deeply considered opinion on this complex topic to those with whom I have long been friends, but with whom I have never had this conversation. This will be a long read, but if you are one of the small handful of people on this earth who actually care about my opinion on this please read carefully.
I am writing this following a weekend twitter exchange with a very good friend of mine. I consider this person to be one of my all-time closest friends. I consider him a brother. I love him as a brother. We’ve been friends since the 9th grade. I can count maybe one or two other friends in my entire life who are as important to me as him. We disagree on many things, especially politics, but that has never, and I hope will never, affect our friendship. It always makes for extremely lively, challenging and enjoyable debates. He also happens to be a black man.
Here’s is the video he linked. Quite funny actually. Very Postmodern.
And here is the thing. He’s absolutely right. Racism is terrible, and has done terrible things to the world. Europeans colonized the world, and that had some terrible consequences for the native people of those places, consequences and legacies we still see today. All of that is given. All of that is true. But it is all partial. It’s a piece of the truth. It’s not a full picture. Furthermore, if one approaches the world as if that is the full truth and there is nothing more to be integrated, then you are perpetuating the very racism you are fighting against.
Yeah, you heard me right. If your worldview is the currently (in the US and Europe anyway) fashionable Post-Modern worldview, then while you may think you are on the front lines fighting racism, you’re actually perpetuating it. You’re keeping it alive. You’re prolonging its legacy.
Understanding Worldviews and Value Memes is CRITICAL to understanding racism.
In my writing I talk a lot about Worldviews. One’s worldview is determined by one’s dominant Value Meme. Think of a Value Meme (or vMeme) as somewhat like software, like an operating system for your consciousness, and worldview is the User Interface. Developmental Psychologists have been mapping these vMeme operating systems for the last 50 years or more. Piaget, Graves, Loevinger, Gebser, Kohlberg, Fowler; the maps vary slightly in subject matter, focusing on the development of ego, morality, faith, or consciousness, but they all have in common a developmental progression. In other words, we start with simple, foundational operating software; seek food, seek shelter, create offspring. Human 1.0 software is very much like any other animal. Then comes Human 1.1; tribal human, then Human 1.2; egoistic human, then Human 1.3; traditional human, then Human 1.4; modern human, and then Human 1.5; post-modern human. In the last 30 years, we’ve seen the gradual emergence of Human 2.0; integral human. However, human 2.0 is still somewhat rare; perhaps 2-3% of the population and growing.
All humans must update their software sequentially as they grow and develop into adults. Generally these updates continue until a mature adult human has uploaded the most current software version his or her social group is utilizing. Every so often, a maverick human will test out a “newer” update. Sometimes they like the demo and implement the update fully. This is how progress is made.
Often, prior versions of the software become corrupted. They get viruses, and at times large chunks of data go missing. At those times it is important for humans to “reinstall” the prior versions of the software. When doing this humans use terms like, “working on one’s shadow,” “Connecting with one’s inner child,” or “going through a midlife crisis.” However, until they actually install human 2.0, they are still limited to the User Interface of their current version of the software.
If we understand the version of the software a person is using we can understand their approach to the world around them. The tools to do this, to take on the perspective of other worldviews, are uploaded with the Human 1.5 update. However, although the tools are there, the UI is somewhat clunky and underdeveloped. It’s important to remember that prior to 2.0, humans are incapable of looking objectively at other worldviews, that capability, is fully online with update 2.0. The primary feature of the 2.0 update is the ability to revert to prior UI’s as the need arises.
Following the software analogy so far? 🙂
The point of explaining all of this is to understand that humans are not all functioning from the same worldview, and furthermore, all worldviews hold a piece of the truth. Since human 1.0-1.5 operating systems are incapable of fully accessing other worldviews, they find themselves in constant conflict with each other. Each is holding on to the piece of the truth that their worldview can see, while trying to force it down the throats of others who cannot see it. This is the frustration my good friend feels when he says, “People don’t even know what racism is… More than that, though, I don’t think that people really WANT to know what it ACTUALLY is, and what its actually done to the world.”
His frustration is that not all people can see that piece of the truth that those at human 1.5 can see. His UI is showing him the obvious truths of racism that become glaringly apparent with the 1.5 update; the history of oppression imposed by white skinned peoples against brown skinned peoples all over the world; the systemic consequences of that oppression that carry on today; the continuing struggle and work needed to overcome those consequences. It is a powerful worldview, and it is dominant in our culture today. It is the worldview that brought us civil rights, and undid the systemic inequalities built into our legal systems and our social systems, not only in areas of race, but sex, sexual orientation and more. Human 1.5 took the enlightenment tools first introduced in the 1.4 update, and for the first time, applied them broadly to those people who were previously denied access to them.
If we can collect and integrate all the pieces of the truth, we can move beyond racism. We cannot end it. But we can move beyond it.
Generally speaking, as we update our software, our UI allows us to include a larger and larger group into the family we think of as “human” as “us” and as worthy of dignity, respect, empathy, and consideration.
At Human 1.0 that consideration goes as far as ourselves and immediate kin. It allowed cooperative hunting and gathering.
At Human 1.1 the consideration expands to our “tribe” or clan – an extended kin group. This level of consideration allowed specialization, farming and animal domestication.
At human 1.2 it expands further to incorporate related or allied tribes with common interests, goals etc. This level of consideration allowed political/religious organization, empire building and conquering.
At human 1.3 it expands further to incorporate all of “my people” defined by nationality, or by religion, or by ethnicity. This level of consideration allowed for nationalism, colonization and religious expansionism.
At human 1.4 it expands even further to incorporate all people. This is the first operating system to consider all people to be equal, and worthy of equal consideration. It allowed for the enlightenment, science, free exchange/speech/religion etc.
At human 1.5 it expands to an even further degree to include all sentient beings. This operating system prioritizes consideration for peoples/groups that historically suffered at the hands of those using prior operating systems. It allows for healing, diversity, universal empathy, and consensus making.
At human 2.0 the prior spheres of consideration are understood to be holarchically arranged, each becomes fully integrated. This operating system stabilizes the prior operating systems into a functional and harmonious whole. It tempers the excesses of prior systems and allows for a truly integrated panarchic global society.
Racism can thus be properly seen in this context as the difference between the considered in-group of one operating system from another. Human 1.5 sees Human 1.4 as racist because they do not prioritize consideration to those who’ve historically suffered. Human 1.4 sees Human 1.5 as racist (or “reverse racist”) because they prioritize consideration of some over others, thus creating inequalities in consideration. Meanwhile both Human 1.5 and 1.4 see Human 1.3 as racist because their consideration extends only to their nation, ethnicity or religious creed.
Because the Human 1.5 operating system is currently so dominant, Human 2.0 is often focused on tempering the excesses of Human 1.5. Thus Human 1.5 often interprets Human 2.0 as racist in the same way that Human 1.4 is racist because they interpret this tempering or balancing action as an attack on the 1.5 value Meme. This could not be further from the truth. Human 2.0 has integrated 1.5 and is attempting to stabilize it into a functional holarchical balance with the other vMemes.
Sometimes this is more skillfully accomplished than others. Coleman Hughes is hugely skillful in this regard. His contributions at Quillete are must-reads. It is an understandable and perhaps unavoidable circumstance that pale skinned persons must rely on their melanin endowed fellows to be the voice of Human 2.0 with regard to the topic of race. I had accepted that and until recently remained fairly silent on the topic. It is expected by Human 1.5 that I withhold my opinion, that I self-sensor, on the basis of my whiteness. In fact to act as though I could not possibly have any opinion of any value at all on racism by virtue of that whiteness. That is the absolutely silly excess to which Human 1.5 is currently being driven, and against which I can no longer just be silent.