There Is Only One Race, The Human Race.
Meeting this week’s guest Jane Elliott was on my bucket list. I am in absolute awe of her work as an educator and as a fearless anti-racist who refuses to remain silent about the injustices still taking place in our country today. In my opinion, Jane should be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor, for dedicating her life to this cause.
For over fifty years Jane has traveled the world to enlighten people about racism, bigotry and discrimination through her “Blue-Eyed Brown-Eyed” exercise. Despite the backlash, she receives from those who become rattled by the truth she continues her mission to obliterate ignorance and to school people about the lies we have been programmed to believe since the beginning of our country’s founding.
Jane Elliott is a humble, extraordinary, SHERO. “There is only one race, the human race,” Jane says and
for me,these words also ring true. Yet, I recognize as someone who has gotten a leg up in society because of the color of my skin that it is crucial for me to always evaluate my views and differentiate what is societal and familiar programming versus reality. I recognize that I haven’t been taking enough action to make a difference in dismantling racism so I am heading out on a new journey to do so, inspired by the work of Jane Elliott, Tim Wise, Dr. Kitty Oliver, and others.
I once wrote a screenplay about racism called “RAHOWA,” an acronym for Racial Holy War. The story begins in a church basement where its members are taking an oath to protect their white supremacy. One of the oath-takers is a young boy groomed from birth to take over a nationwide movement of white nationalist terrorists. The main character of this story is a popular Senator from Harlem, New York. The young boy (now an adult and a successful billionaire) approaches the Senator to run for the presidency. What appeals to the Senator is that this business man has a flawless reputation and he vows to fund the entire presidential campaign with his personal funds. In exchange, the billionaire wants to be his running mate. The billionaire convinces the Senator of the great work they will accomplish while simultaneously shutting out the dark money people who have infiltrated politics. Free health care for the poor and disadvantaged and free education for all who can’t afford it sets the Senator’s imagination on fire as he visualizes the good, they could accomplish together.
I wrote this story in the late 1980’s. I shopped it in Hollywood with some of the top production companies and I was told, ironically, that the story was not realistic and that no one would believe it. “It’s like a science fiction movie,” the head of an actor’s production company whom I wanted to play the President replied. In my script the Senator was elected in 2009, the very year Barack Obama was elected President. Years later friends would ask, “How could you predict twenty years ago that we would elect a black man to the presidency the exact year it happened?” I always felt that the RAHOWA story came through me, as if I were merely the messenger chosen to get it out and into the world. I had never written a script before, and this was my first, but I felt that this screenplay had the potential to Wake-Up America about how racism would eventually destroy it unless we took action to stop it. It was a wake-up call for America indeed but most of its citizens hit the snooze button, never rising to the occasion to obliterate the hatred that is responsible for attempting to destroy our democracy today.
Dr. Kitty Oliver, is a veteran journalist, extraordinary writer, oral historian, and founder of the cross-cultural “Race and Change Oral History Archive.” Her books and television documentaries are used widely in public schools, colleges, and community forums to name just a few of her accomplishments. I consider Dr. Oliver to be a dear friend and one whom I admire and respect immensely. Dr. Oliver and her husband Artie were traveling through New York on vacation a few years ago and I invited them to lunch at my home. I’ll never forget the moment we were sharing a cup of tea in my kitchen and Dr. Oliver pointed out to me during one of our many conversations through the years about race, “Kathy, look at where you choose to live. Woodstock is predominately white.” For a moment, I felt stunned by Dr. Oliver’s remark. “We wanted to get out of the city and be close to a music scene,” (my husband Andy is a musician),” I heard myself respond defensively. When Dr. Oliver speaks, I pay attention as her experience and her wisdom always create a safe opening for me to unravel something I need to see about myself. I found myself going into more detail about my reasons for moving to Woodstock. The community protected the environment, it was safe, it had close proximity to the city, it was crime free, there was enough of a Jewish population to comfort my husband, we wanted to live in nature and we got a bigger bang for our buck coming from living in New York City. All of these things were true. It was also true that I rarely saw people of color in Woodstock.
I equated where I wanted to live with being crime free. Bad neighborhoods were crime-ridden neighborhoods and were reflected in the media (as well as in my own upbringing) as being populated by people of color. The centuries of institutional and systemic racism have done a number on our psyches. “White people,” and I hate to use this term since speaking with Jane Elliott, have been programmed to believe lies about black, brown, and indigenous people since our country was founded. The cells of racist programming infiltrate even those
of us who agree with Jane Elliott’s belief that there is only one race, the human race. Not everyone who has racist programming wears a white hood or is violent. You can be kind, loving, generous, intelligent, compassionate, a good and caring parent, daughter, son, friend, aunt, uncle, grandparent, or someone gender-fluid. You can be religious, or a follower of Christ and still have racist programming and be unaware that you do or justify that you don’t because you knowingly refuse to or are in denial of the truth. If you think that you have no racist programming, then you should definitely consider tuning in to this program.
I invite you to join me as I formulate a personal plan to dismantle racism. We are all Americans not just those of us who fall into the “white,” category. The road to freedom is accepting that white denial, white fragility, and white entitlement is killing our potential and our democracy. Don’t let the lies and the fears of those who live in hate and thirst for power fool you into believing that to maintain our freedom we must suppress the rights of others. We must acknowledge that there is a race problem and that we contribute to that problem remaining in place if we are not taking action to free ourselves and the country from it. Think of the much-needed contribution you will be making to better our world if you simply wake up to the truth.
Peace, love, and gratitude,