Survival Strategies and Denying Racism
There are people who will never acknowledge that systemic racism exists, even if they know it does. Because, to do so would alienate them from their family and friends who are attached to racist ideology. The need for belonging will override any need for truth or justice.
This may strike you as shallow (or worse), but belonging is a survival strategy, formed in childhood. If a child lived in an abusive or neglectful environment, being part of the pack may have been the difference between receiving and avoiding harm. It’s also an ancestral trauma pattern—being kicked out of the tribe equaled death. We all experience a need for belonging to some degree, but for some it will feel like life or death.
And then, there will be people that deny that systemic racism exists because they deny everything painful in their life. To awaken to collective oppression would mean to awaken to their personal oppression. It would mean facing all of the situations where they harm and have been harmed. Denial is also a survival strategy, formed when we were very young, because we did not have the power to change our reality, so instead we pretended that a different reality existed just to survive.
Survival strategies do NOT absolve us. It does not mean we are off the hook from doing difficult work and facing both personal and societal issues.
But some will never choose to do that work because it’s too painful or they simply don’t know how. But this is why we MUST do the inner work, if we are ever to see sustained societal change.
I offer this because I think it’s easy to assume that other human beings are just cruel or heartless. And yes, they may be.
But if we have a better understanding of how our collective pain originates and why it festers, perhaps we will be in a better position to support ALL of humanity.