Sunday, August 09, 2015

"A deep-seated, erroneous conceit"

It's been a year since an unarmed 18-year-old Black young man, Michael Brown, was shot by a police office in Ferguson, Missouri. A brief check-in at Twitter turned up the news that yesterday a Dallas cop had killed another young Black man, Christian Taylor, also unarmed.

The Guardian database of police killings in 2015 currently reads 695 for this year. If you click the link, it could be greater yet. U.S. police are on pace to kill 2+ a day. One hundred seventy-eight of those killed are listed as Black. One hundred forty-eight of the dead are described as "unarmed." I don't much trust that second figure as the database seems to be crediting police claims that Amilcar Perez-Lopez, killed just blocks from my house, was waving a knife at them. Nobody in the neighborhood believes that one. He was felled by 6 bullets in the back.

Last spring Professor of Religion Jan Willis offered a Buddhist meditation at Lion's Roar on how these killings can go on and on.

What does it mean when we need protection from the people whose job it is to protect us?

We cry out for what seems so simple: fair and equal treatment under the law. But to view each other as “equals” is precisely the problem here. The root of this problem is the very root cause of samsara itself, namely, the over-exaggerated investment we each make in our respective “I”s.

The conceit of “I” prevents us from seeing others—any others!—as “equal” to us. So some human beings actually harbor the thought that some lives matter less than others. And so we witness again—almost unimaginably in this 21st-century so-called “post-racial” society—the placards that must state the obvious: “Black Lives Matter.” I am reminded that 50 years ago the placards read poignantly, “I am somebody.” Why is this so hard for us to see and accept, and even cherish?

It seems to me that only if we harbor the deep-seated, erroneous conceit that “I am better than others” can we harbor the view that black lives—or any lives—don’t matter. This conceit is our downfall.

Embedded in our institutions, the conceit of white supremacy is what makes it so hard to end these killings. White supremacy, the national original sin, expresses itself in individuals as a stubborn confidence that I and my kind are better than -- and matter more than -- those others and and their kind. We aren't and we don't.

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