Is talk of racism making you angry?

Media Watch

There isn’t one world, but as many worlds as there are people, notes guest columnist Param Srikantia (Deva Anugraha). Published on, June 14, 2020. logo

Param Srikantia

We are seeing a deep polarization between those who believe that systemic racism is permeating our institutions and those who deny its prevalence.

If you do not believe there is systemic racism, this will be a very stressful time for you. You will feel severely aggravated by your friends who believe it exists.

And, as Osho – the prolific Indian mystic who left us a legacy of meditation practices and deep insights in over 2,000 books – reminds us, it will be very beneficial to just sit with these uncomfortable feelings and the intense anger being activated within you.

Having worked on five continents, I see some interesting differences in how people from different cultures cope with their uncomfortable and unpleasant feelings. In the United States, we are raised to believe by mainstream society that the world (at least the U.S.) is fair and that we are good people.

When evidence emerges that, we sense, threatens one or both of those assumptions, we want to eliminate the discomfort and make up a “neat and tidy” story that dispels those feelings and enables us to return to our mythical but naive childhood belief that the world is fair and we are good people. If people are suffering in this “fair” world, there must be something they did to deserve that fate.

The need for this kind of resolution can be so strong that we become committed to proving the assumptions that “the world is fair and we are good” rather than listening to people and their experiences with an open heart and an open mind.

It’s very important that when we are shown examples of injustice, we don’t take it as a personal accusation and resort to selective perception to validate our worldview. You can still be a good person; being a good person means listening patiently to the pain of our fellow sojourners.

For a country to be truly just and fair, it has to be comfortable listening to grievances of unfairness and injustice. IT’S OK TO BE WITH PAIN. If we run from pain, we will become masters at the art of denial. We will then surround ourselves with friends who affirm our beliefs, and we will stop growing as we try to preserve a fixed fantasy of a just and fair world.

Most young people today can help bring us older folk up to speed if we give them a chance. It’s OK to ask them to help you. We will grow from understanding that our beliefs are shaped by our experiences, which in turn are shaped by factors such as race and class.

And, generally, unless we make a special effort, once we believe something, the human mind will unconsciously filter out any data that does not support our beliefs. And so we are trapped in a circle of experiences, beliefs, selective perception and denial of discrepant information, leading to further strengthening of beliefs.

As historians have shown, there is no one single “history” of the U.S. The Native Americans, the African-Americans and the Europeans are left with very different understandings of the history of the U.S., as they all experienced very different realities.

Reality is not one perception; there are multiple REALITIES. As Osho used to say, there isn’t one world, but as many worlds as there are people.

Param Srikantia aka Deva Anugraha

Param Srikantia, aka Deva Anugraha, is a professor at the Baldwin Wallace University School of Business.

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