The increasing worry about race relations, and the causes that drive them, present the opportunity to exorcise demons within the collective unconscious that have been suppressed for far too long.
By Matt Classen
The percentage of Americans who harbor deep worries pertaining to race relations is on a shocking rise. This increasing worry was illustrated by statistics released by Gallup. The figures reveal that in 2017 42% of Americans are particularly nervous about the current state of race relations in the US.
Worries about race relations were at a historic low of 13% just a year into Barack Obama’s presidency in 2010. However, by 2013 these worries had risen to 18%. By 2015, there was an unhealthy leap to 28% and by 2016 the percentage had swollen to 35%.
This increasing worry can be attributed to racially sensitive deaths or abuses here in the United States. Some of these cut across the all-too-often killing of black people by police with almost no accountability. Also, the renewal of white supremacist movements as depicted in the Charlottesville violence, and the subsequent comments of President Trump that inflamed the issue still further, has only worsened the situation.
Democrats show more worry about degrading race relations than their Republican counterparts. Figures show that in 2017 59% of Democrats are worried about the state of race relations – a hefty jump from 26% three years ago – while 29% of Republicans show anxiety (a 17% increase from three years ago).
These figures indicate that concerns about race relations, which had dropped significantly from the historic highs in the 1950’s and 60’s, are steadily increasing. The birth of movements like the Black Lives Matter brings to mind the capricious nature of the relationship between white and black populations in the US. This movement was essentially birthed in response to the disturbing police shootings or general killings of unarmed black men, many of which were caught on video and then posted to sites like YouTube. One killing in particular that sparked outrage was that of Eric Garner, who was strangled to death by New York City police despite proclaiming “I can’t breathe” as he was thrown to the ground and handcuffed by a swarm of officers for an extremely minor alleged offense – selling loose cigarettes (watch video here). Another even more gruesome killing of a black man by police officers, that furthered the fury, was that of Alton Sterling. Caught live, the video shows police wrestling Sterling to the ground, holding a gun to his chest and then shouting “he’s got a gun” before shooting him six times. What was clear from the video is that Mr. Sterling was pinned to the ground and not at all in a position to reach for an alleged gun, especially if a police officer already has a gun pointed at your chest. The below video from CNN captures the horror.
Over the last three years, and with a clear increase in the concern for racial tensions in the US, the need to exorcise our collective demons appears to be more important now more than ever before. We are living in increasingly multicultural, globalized, interconnected societies where almost everyone has a mobile phone and information is easily uploaded and viewable in real time.
Because of these factors, whether in the US or internationally, that we are having to confront deeply engrained racism should come as no surprise. In fact, given the deeply tribalistic tendencies that all humans maintain, namely the fear of that which appears different to you, or unfamiliar to you, is what drives a fear-based thinking that leads to irrational emotions with highly detrimental outcomes. This in turn drives the need to protect and defend against the unknown or unfamiliar. If that unknown or unfamiliar can be vilified, or the fear and anger against it stoked and used for political gain, then we clearly have an explosive situation on our hands.
Many could argue that President Donald Trump has been a culprit in this. Many would argue otherwise. What cannot be argued is that deeply seeded racist tendencies are being driven into full public view, which is not only a highly uncomfortable truth, but also a fantastic opportunity to begin having a discussion for how to exorcise the demons of racism within the collective unconscious that have been suppressed for far too long. Better late than never, right?
The trick is being able to see through, and avoid, the manufactured outrage that is so clearly on display via politically oriented mass media or media personalities that is so clearly contrived to win clicks, likes and shares (aka “click bait”). It’s hard to not get wrapped up in the subject when it’s so emotive to begin with. That said, the time is now that we need to engage in the discussion in order to begin a long-overdue healing process. Given then monumental challenge we face, we need to do so with caution, with determination and with the highest degree of emotional intelligence possible. In other words, be a part of the solution, and not the continuation of the problem.