JOSEPH TIEGER Hello, and welcome again to Reaching Out.
Over the course of this series, you've seen a thousand people gather as strangers, and begin a process of deep community healing. You've heard them speak griefs and fears, hopes and dreams, that we all share. And you've watched them build trust and develop real connection, and start to talk about the changes we each must make to bring about the miracle of a compassionate society and a sustainable world.
Each person among us brings to this conversation a racial or ethnic identity--both an individual and a group history of cultural advantage or disadvantage. If we are to come together now as allies, we have long-standing cultural wounds to heal, and personal experiences and patterns of hurt and anger, fear and defensiveness, to recover from.
We usually try to avoid this emotionally-charged terrain, out of dislike for conflict, or despair of being truly heard and understood. In this program we enter this territory, as an indispensable part of our healing journey together.
RAM DASS When we are trying to collaborate together in community--as just two people, or many--where do we begin? How do we start?
JOANNA MACY First I look at you, and I imagine all the strengths that are there. There's compassion, intelligence, there's ingenuity, there's endurance. There are gifts that you aren't even aware of yourself yet. And then I think what this would mean for our world if these gifts were to be released, these powers to be acted on.
And then I think, "Oh, how much I desire you to be free from fear. And how much I want you to be free from hatred and from greed."
RAM DASS Excuse me one second. Do you see me as fearful and greedy, and hatred?
JOANNA MACY These are present in every human heart. It's a given. And not particularly worthy of...so you don't single out people to blame them for it. You know, that this is something that we all suffer from. This is the human condition.
There is a hurt in each life, that goes way, way back. The disappointments, abandonments, betrayals, failures, self-torment, abuse. We are prey to these. And we can transform them, we can let them go. But that's always a continual, ongoing work, I believe. I don't think you do it once and for all.
So, then I think of what it would be like to work together. I could discover some of my gifts through this person, and help him discover some of his. We could take risks together. We could celebrate the little victories and console ourselves over the inevitable setbacks. We could forgive each other when we mess up. We could just be there for the other one.
And you can do this practice with people you don't even know. We are so interwoven, our lives, so inextricably, through time and space that it's like we're nerve cells in the mind of a great being. And we know that out of that web, we cannot fall.
MARTÍN CANO What I'm feeling is really alienated. I feel like I don't belong here. A lot of the other people that were invited to this, a lot of people of color that were invited to this, refused to come--because of that alienation. Because of the fears that would come up. Because we would be novelties. And because we're expected to fit into your world. Rather than a sharing. You know, I feel like it's a real one-way situation.
Well, maybe I should tell you about what happened tonight. I was supposed to do a filming tonight on a local television program on juvenile delinquency and the Youth Authority. They had told me that I was going to be on a panel. So, I went down there. And prepared for it. Spent a couple of weeks preparing for it. When I got down there, I walked into the room with the panel members. And then I was told that I wasn't going to be on the panel, that I was going to be in the audience. And I had told them a lot of contacts for the audience. So, a lot of people in the audience, I knew. And almost all the people in the audience were people of color. The panel consisted of four white men. And so, they asked me to stay in the audience, and they said that I was going to be interviewed in the audience. And I refused, and left.
So, when I walked in here tonight, I was really angry, and all I could feel, all I could see, was my pain.
You know, race and ethnicity is such an important thing in my life, not because I was born that way. I wasn't born with this issue of race and ethnicity coming out of my mouth when I first talked. I learned through oppression that it's the most important thing in my life. It's shaped my life in very terrible ways.
So I walked in here tonight, and I looked at the film crew, and there it is again, you know, the film crew had turned white again. And I wonder about the sincerity. And I wonder why nobody else cares. Why is it just my issue?
MARY BEATON It's not just your issue. But I think, too, what's happening is, we all have our stuff, whatever. I mean, you're a Chicano, and you're whatever you are, and you're whatever you are, and, you know, I'm this white-bread person that doesn't even have a culture to turn to. And, you know, we all have our stuff. But what we have in common is that we're human, we're all human, we're all faced with, really, the same pain. It's focussed a little bit differently for you, on whatever your particular issues are--and for each of us, for whatever we have--but we all have the same human condition. And I feel really bad that you've gone through that, and that you feel alienated, and I want you very badly to be part of this group, and to try to somehow overcome those barriers.
ROBERTO VARGAS You see, but we're all the same, but we're also all different.
MARY BEATON Well, we are all different, it's true.
ROBERTO VARGAS And here--you know what?--being part of this is: "Let's create a healthier society, let's create a healthier world." That won't happen until we recognize the fact that there is economic racism, and it's real. And until we break it down, how are we going to optimize our power to be allies and healers?
MARY BEATON I agree, that...well, I don't know. I don't think there's probably anyone in this group that doesn't agree with that statement. Or maybe anyone in that whole big group that doesn't agree with that. And I don't know that this is the place where we have to get those issues across, because I don't...I don't know, it doesn't . . .
DAVID T. Well, what I'd like to see is that when we come to this place, when we come to this circle, or even the large group, that you can put that aside. And I know that it's a hard thing to do, you know, but I would hope that everybody in there, like you said, has those same intentions, and would like to make at least this--maybe if the whole thing's not like that, maybe if the world's not like that, that's okay--if we could just at least make our group interactive, and, you know, equal.
ALI GROSS I'm a little uncomfortable saying this. I hear a lot of separation, not me separating you, but you separating yourself from me. I mean, yeah, I feel like you've separated yourself from me. I mean, when I walk into the room, I don't look and say, "Well, I'm the only person of this color in the room." You know, I say, "Well, I'm one of very few teenagers in this room. OK, yeah. And, 'Hi, neighbor,'" you know, "'You're not a teenager, and, yeah, we're different. OK.'" And move on. Acknowledge it, and move on. And it's hard. It's hard for me. And I listened to what you were saying, and I felt for you. And I just want maybe if you could look at the way that you're separating yourself sometimes. And I see that.
ROBERTO VARGAS I just wonder, because I keep hearing people talking about addressing homelessness, right, homeless people? If you go and talk to a homeless person and say, "Look man, just try to leave your reality out of this dialogue, because, you know, we're people--I'm human, you're human." Damn, bullshit, man, I mean, he's living in the streets, and you're living in a home. It's two different realities. I think it's more appropriate to ask him, "What is it you're experiencing? What is it you're feeling?" And let him be your teacher.
But here again, it's like, "You know what, you guys? Leave your stuff outside. Don't come here. We don't want to learn about that stuff. We want to learn about the universality of all being human." I just want to say, it's a lot to ask. Because the reality is that we are who we are.
MARTÍN CANO I feel like these ideas are not welcome here. I feel like what you're saying by telling me, "Why don't you just look at us all as human beings, and why can't you just walk in as a human being, and just deal with that base reality, you know, that common denominator,"--what you're telling me is that I'm not respected for who I am. That I can only be respected if I agree with you, if I come in here and talk just like you, and have the same issues as you. And, I think, really, what has to be talked about is not this one-world stuff. We have to talk about the divisions. We have to talk about the barriers. And when I bring them up...and one of the barriers is our anger, you know. One of the barriers is my anger. You know, over the oppression that I've faced my whole life because I'm this color. And that's a barrier. One of the barriers is disadvantage and advantage in our society, and the anger that creates.
NANCY HARRIS When you talk, Martín, I mean, I can feel your anger right in my chest, right here. It hits me, like, whoook!--in my chest.
Your anger creates pain, actually, in the people around you. And I can't say I know what you're feeling, but I'm certainly sympathetic. But your anger...where does it leave me a place to stand?
And then I try and think, in my life, the things that I'm incredibly angry about, and how much more effective I got when it was righteous anger, but without the chip on my shoulder. With the chip on my shoulder, I can't hear--even when people are trying to communicate to me sincerely. I mean, I think that at this point almost nobody could say anything to you and you would believe that they really wanted to communicate with you sincerely. Because the anger is creating a screen of assumptions. Please, I am--and I have the feeling everybody here is--here for you.
ROBERTO VARGAS Well, maybe that's a good point. everyone speak to "how I feel." Like, right now I appreciate everything you said, because you were "I feel this, I believe this, I think that." But if we can all speak to the "I," and then I think we'll all be owning whatever we say, whatever we feel. And maybe that's one of the principles to work on, is just we all share from the "I" rather than the "we" feel. And I think we'll be learning a lot because there's power in everyone owning their own feelings and thoughts.
ROB KRUGER You know, the reality is, is that the people in this circle here didn't really have a whole lot to do with the fact that we don't have a racially integrated group out there. And they didn't really have anything to do, I don't believe, that much, with the fact that the people here are not integrated who are doing the filming. And so, I think it's somewhat unfair to put an anger on either the group or on them, when, I think, the group here wants to be successful in creating some alliances.
When I left here last week, I was very encouraged because I saw people like yourself, who come from a different background, and who I don't really spend my day with, I don't really see in my normal activity. And I saw a way: "Wow, I might be able to create some kind of alliance with someone like yourself."
You know, I can tell you stories about prejudice towards me because I'm a Jew, okay? And it may be totally different from prejudices that you have because of your race, okay? But many of the same feelings--the anger, the fear--a lot of those feelings are the same. And I think that's where camaraderie can come about, and can help overcome some of those prejudices.
LOUIS WYATT I think that's where we need to start our basis for a relationship--in building trust. You know, and not see each other as 'black and white.'
But if there's an issue, then it should be dealt with. And the brother brought up a good issue. And it may be, you know, after this here--they have a suggestion box--we should put that in as a group.
But it has to be with truth. And if it's not with truth, then it's not going to work. It's just an illusion. It's like, I have this illusion in my head that we're invited to dinner, and you go to the table, and you look at your name plate, and it says, "Well, here's Louis's place at the table." And there's no fork, there's no knife, there's no napkin. And I look at my counterpart here: he has a fork, a knife, and a napkin. And I cry out, "Excuse me," and nobody hears me. So, you know, let's deal with....What I would like to see happen here is that, if there is an injustice that we see, that will make us grow, that we should deal with that.
I want to care, and I want to reach out. But I don't want people to feel like they owe me something, or that they have to do something. I don't feel like that. But I want to build a trust and a bonding and a togetherness, and by doing that there, if there's something that's wrong, then we need to deal with it, right here in this little group. And then we can expand out, and build bridges that we can cross. And we can be angry, and you're not afraid to say, "Well, I feel this, or I feel that there," because you need to patronize me. You know, let's break down those barriers. That's what I would like to see happen here.
ROBERTO VARGAS You know, a lot of times, well, I do a lot of work with, multi-cultural work, with teachers. And a lot of teachers say, "I'm not racist, I treat all the kids the same." And that's the issue. We're not all the same. We all bring our uniqueness. And I think we all have the responsibility to see and hear each other's uniqueness, whatever it is. Being a woman, being a woman physician, being a Black man, being a Jewish man, being a teenager. I mean, you know, I think part of it is, like, maybe the call is for all of us to come in, recognizing our humanness, but recognizing our uniqueness too, and giving full valor to both--the sameness and the differences. And I think that's one of the lessons we all have, is to recognize the "both". Because a lot of the problems we have has been this forced notion that we're all the same. Yes, that's half the equation. But only half. We're also different.
And right now I'm starting to, I'm feeling good. I think right now, by virtue of the fact that we've talked this, they've got documentation of the concern. I mean, this dialogue is a reflection of the concern. Let them deal with that. I mean, I'd like to move on to, okay, "What does this mean in terms of service? What does it mean in terms of what we intend to do, or hope to do, or are doing?"
AMY KAMINER One of the things that interested me when I first read about this group was a sense that change comes about by somewhere examining--inside yourself, and out in the world. And that it's slow, but it's change, one by one. And that somehow there's a theory that if enough people go through that change, that you create a force that's large enough to create a change that's beyond one. You know, that it almost takes on a life of its own. And so, I guess, what I would ask is how, within this small group of ten, we can work together to listen, and to respond, and to be able to go through the process, where we can create change as a group.
MARTÍN CANO One of the barriers is the fear of arguing, of having differences. We want everything to be nice and smooth in this group, you know, and for everybody to come away loving and caring and together. And, you know, we could avoid all the tough issues and do that. But then we can't deal with my feelings. And if you don't want to deal with my feelings, then fine. We can avoid those things.
MARY BEATON Well I think we should definitely deal with your feelings and anybody's feelings. That that's what it's all about. And I'm sorry that you felt negated. And if I was part of that by saying, "We're all human, we all have pain," I really do believe that. And I feel to a certain extent, yes, we're all different. But we do have a common goal--even though we haven't quite defined maybe what it is, exactly--but that we do, in a way, have to let go of some of our own individual stuff, and try to deal with the human condition. And I can't...there's no way that I can understand your own position, but I would never ask you to be anyone that you aren't, or to hide your feelings, which are you. That's who you are. That's how you present yourself. And that is important to you, and it's important to us, too.
I feel sort of lost. I feel like I don't really know how to . . .
ROBERTO VARGAS We're getting there. I think we're defining some key principles here. One of them is like, we're saying, it's okay to put feelings out. Martin put out hard stuff. I mean, it's sometimes easier to go with smooth stuff. Okay, he put out hard stuff. And we're staying with it, and we're all sitting here. No one walked out. And I think we're building some strength now. We're saying, honor the feelings. And now let's talk from a position of "I". We're creating a culture here. We're creating a culture of work. And I'm feeling good about that. I'm feeling something's coming together here.
MARTÍN CANO I think these issues relate to service. You go into any community that's suffering, and serve them, and you're going to find anger about their suffering; that there's inequality; that some people are suffering and some people aren't; that some people can go and give their lives to people that are suffering, and other people give their lives to suffering. And that inequality in itself, you know, creates the 'us/them'. And how do we deal with that? How do we deal with the anger? How do we deal with the us/them? Somehow we have to build the bridges and unite--somehow. But I don't think we can do it on a basis of inequality, and superiority/inferiority. We have to all be struggling for equality. And it can't be 'my issue'. It's got to be all of our issues. It can't just be my anger. Everyone else should be upset, too.
ROBERTO VARGAS Just being angry can consume. It can consume you. But when I look at it as moral outrage--being morally outraged at injustice--I can make it a healthy tool. It doesn't consume me. And I think now I'm learning, too, because I work a lot with young folks. And young folks a lot of times, they're saying, "Damn it, your generation,"--you know, they're talking to me now--"your generation: you've got a car, you've got a home--what am I going to have?"
I'm now also learning to let them express their anger, because it's real. And not get all defensive about it, because it's got to come out. Now, once it's all out there, I say, "Okay, where do we go with it now? Where can we go with it now?" And I think that's a tool, a skill, we're all going to have to learn: is not to feel that I am the object of it. Because sometimes we feel "I am the object, and I've got to respond or defend." But let it be, let it go, and then wait the time, and then, "Okay, where do we go with it?"
MARY BEATON I think that's true.
MARTÍN CANO You know, I'm really trying to learn to love all of you. I really am. And I really feel like sometimes that my anger pushes you away. And I don't want that to happen, I really want to bring you in. And I'm sorry that my anger does that. But what do I do? I mean, do I mask it? Do I just say, "Let's not deal with this issue"? Do I just stand up here and shuffle for you a little bit, and say, you know, "I'll be a nice Mexican?" I'm going to be me. I'm going to be me. And sometimes we're going to have differences. Sometimes we're going to have these barriers. And can we get through them? Can we get through them, and learn something from them? Can we unite? And does that mean uniting by saying, "Lookit, leave your issues out there"? Is that how we unite?
Or do we say, "We're going to all unite against oppression"? Is that how we do it? I mean, can we just get on the same side, and say, "Yes, we're against discrimination, we're against oppression"?
ROBERTO VARGAS All those in favor . . . [laughter]
MARTÍN CANO And that's where we're going to find the love, isn't it?
Sometimes it takes a rainy day
Just to let you know
Everything's gonna be all right
When you open up your life to the living
All things come spilling in on you
And you're flowing like a river
The changer and the changed
You've got to spill some over, over all
Filling up and spilling over
It's an endless waterfall
Filling up and spilling over, over all
Like the rain falling on the ground
Like the rain falling all around.
©1998 Choice Point