Anyone taking a serious look at one’s own attitudes about race these days is bound to get into some uncomfortable territory. It’s often said that looking at privilege is not enough or maybe looking at history is not enough. But however we go, we will quickly discover that the story widens far beyond our initial impressions or personal experience. The previous post was a suggestion that a white body is much more than skin deep. Privilege and bias are carried deeply in our ontogenetics, our body imagery, development and movement, the fine tuning of our limbic systems, our internal radar where potential threats and opportunities are processed.
Whiteness isn’t likely to think it needs emancipation from privilege or supremacy any time soon. What we are seeing now is a full-throated backlash against the dismantling of systems of oppression which are essentially class-based. Racist tropes are being used to preserve them. So, on one hand, we can say whiteness is already ‘free’ in some respects while being simultaneously diverted from seeing the class structure of its own oppression. True emancipation must mean emancipation for all, but its connection with race is undeniable. Maybe liberation can be interpreted to indicate the collective beyond racial distinction. Inasmuch as there is a white body, a colonized body, a body conforming to ideology as much as biology, regardless of race/ethnicity, and if we are ready to acknowledge the full implications of it, then liberation is as good a word as any to refer to the deconstruction of systemic oppression, racial or otherwise.
The forces opposing the dismantling of oppression like to say the future of Western Civilization is in the balance, as if that defense overrides any other consideration. I tend to agree. And that’s precisely why we must persist in grinding away at the machinery of narratives, epistemologies and exclusionary tropes of modernity, separating the trash from the recyclable, as it were, the propaganda from the truth. We do that by examining the wide and deep effects of policies, ideologies, social practices. That examination process is what’s being called ‘woke.’ and of course it’s the agents of oppression that hold that term to ridicule.
What’s at stake in this conflict is who gets to decide the nature of truth. How do we avoid following the cycles of the past, ensuring our own collapse on an unprecedented, and possibly terminal, scale? I don’t intend to digress into the origins of Western civilization, but I am reminded that the philosophies, governance, social and mercantile structures of Western Civilization did arise at the edges of desert, spreading to Greece, Rome, northward and and westward from there.
Western (white) thought has brought us modernity, capitalism, systemic exploitation, racism on a global scale, religious oppression, the destruction of the natural world, climate change and is now doubling down on all of it. Among the many effects climate change brings us is the loss of arable land due to desertification as well as what are now also called deserts of the ocean, barren areas of increasing size no longer sustaining thriving ecologies. Dismantling racism is among the reallocation of resources we must accomplish, reclaiming the cognitive desert, before (western) civilization returns to its literal origin.
I previously suggested the cultured body, the colonized body is the objective view, entirely dependent on sustaining the separation of subject and object, perpetuating the Other as a means of cementing identity. Identity is a key feature of the ‘objectivity’ of the colonized body. And to the extent that we continue to think and act according to a reified ‘objective’ view, we sustain our separation from the world as a living, entirely integral, continuously emergent matrix of which we are a (small but powerful) part. As a sustaining principle of the objective view, identity has run its course. I might even say identity, particularly including but not at all limited to white identity, is now an obstacle to our continued survival.
The decolonized body, the intrinsic expression of core relationship/connection, the energetic body of creative awareness, the body that re-members, that metabolizes experience continuously, spontaneously, without grasping or regret or shame, the expressive body of subjective integrity, is the transracial body. This is not the multi-racial body, but something else. The transracial body is a matter of consciousness, not identity, and also not the property of any single race, ethnicity or ideology. The transracial body, a term offered by Bayo Akomolafe, is also not an activist. Transracial awareness, if it can be connected to Liz Koch’s core awareness, is not about doing. It’s also not even really about belonging in the sense it is normally meant.
Unless we are quite clear, the very word ‘belonging’ conjures a binary, defining boundaries, or easily slips into grasping at some distinction between us and them. We ask, to what do we belong? If we see the path as one of returning to subjectivity, then everything, the inanimate, the animate, events, people, thoughts, is us and we are all actors within us no matter what we do or who we are. In this sense, using the word belonging can become an intrinsically flawed linguistic trap. Cultivating the subjective view becomes the portal to the transracial view, collective liberation, belonging to the whole.
Transracial awareness is not even really about being, not in any fixed sense. But it is about being-with, becoming-with. When we hear indigenous leaders speak, or anyone speaking from the ground of ancient wisdom, when the words resonate somewhere within us other than the thinking mind, when they strike us in the heart or at a level of deep and quiet intuition that still recognizes the truth, when it feels as though the words open up the very earth, it’s because they speak from the subjective view, from a deep and imperturbable (albeit troubled) love as well as an immense heartbreak. Such a person is not an activist in the conventional sense. The indigenous voice, the transracial voice is not the voice of activism as we generally know it. I wouldn’t even say the transracial voice, or the indigenous voice is post-activist in the sense that it is not occupied in opposition to something or someone Out There.
The indigenous/transracial speaker is not a messenger. They are the message. The transracial voice, the voice of core awareness, is not a teacher or a communicator in any conventional sense. They are the teaching. But those of us who still see the world from the objective view, who still struggle with issues like helplessness, shame, guilt or solidarity, who seek ways to interrupt and dismantle the systemic inertia, those for whom the low-hanging fruit of self-comforting gestures feel discordant, stale and superficial, those of us who have not fully recovered from being captured, conditioned and colonized into objectivity, may regard our recovery as emergence into post-activism.
The recovery of core awareness and emergence into transracial awareness is accessible to anyone. It is surely more difficult for some than for others to realize, but we don’t have to know our personal lineage or commune with an ancestral group to find it. There may well be right times for allyship or solidarity as we most often think of them. But from the recovery of intrinsic integrity arises an inherent solidarity in the form of recognition beyond color, beyond identity, a resonance with shared reality, shared trauma and shared power. It’s not a tribal thing. It’s a human thing. And your forebears may not have had it. But if they did, or however you discover your own version, the linkage is timeless, unbound by any territory, tribe or cosmology. It is always with us, albeit dormant, because it is our intrinsic nature. It is our birthright. It is what we are indebted to. It is the true seat of agency in this confused and corrupted world.