It's obvious that we're not here for ourselves. That makes no evolutionary sense. There's something larger than us, and to the extent that we can live that and celebrate that, I think we're healthier, and then that's love.
So I think if we think of love in this way, and a beloved community in this way, when we hold all this stuff together, together. - John A. Powell
Click here to download Bioneers Radio Series XIII Brochure
Series Theme Music: "Soiridh Leis" from the CD Journey Between by Baka Beyond. Used with permission from Hannibal Records, a Rykodisc label; www.rykodisc.com
“Field Trip” and “Duet” by Jordan Tice Trio from the album THE SECRET HISTORY; Patuxent Music CD-230; 2011; Contact: www.jordantice.com, www.pxrec.com
Bioneers Series XIII - Program 04-13
In Pursuit of Happiness: Becoming Beloved Community
00:00 Welcome (00:04)
00:04 Powell teaser (00:20)
It's obvious that we're not here for ourselves. That makes no evolutionary sense. There's something larger than us, and to the extent that we can live that and celebrate that, I think we're healthier, and then that's love.
So I think if we think of love in this way, and a beloved community in this way, when we hold all this stuff together, together.
00:24 Macy (00:10)
It’s all alive, it’s all connected, it’s all intelligent, it’s all relatives…
00:34 Bioneers Teaser (00:28)
We stand at the threshold of a historic opportunity in the human experiment: to re-imagine how to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations. It's a revolution from the heart of nature - and the human heart.
In this series - The Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature - we celebrate social and scientific innovators with breakthrough solutions for restoring people and planet - creating a future environment of hope.
01:02 Theme music fade out (00:06)
01:08 Opening underwriting narration (00:11)
Support for The Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature is provided in part by Organic Valley Family of Farms and Mary’s Gone Crackers.
01:20 NARRATION 1 (1:23)
From nature’s point of view, people are one species. Categories such as race, class, nation, religion, and even many gender roles are human-made constructs.
Yet the world is riven by exploitation, conflicts and wars driven by these perceived divisions. Meanwhile, political divide-and-conquer strategies deliberately manipulate them to preserve power, wealth or the status quo.
At this unprecedented moment when humanity faces environmental and social collapse on a global scale, our fear of "the other" is further inflamed by the pressures of unstable, contracting economies, and radically changing demographics and social norms. For instance, the U.S. will have a majority minority population in just a couple of decades, while acceptance of gay marriage is becoming the norm.
The challenge is clear: Can humanity overcome these divisions and come together as one to solve this planetary emergency that threatens our common home?
This is "In Pursuit of Happiness: Becoming Beloved Community" with civil liberties scholar john a. powell and social justice advocate Grace Bauer.
My name is Neil Harvey. I'll be your host. Welcome to the Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature.
02:48 Music fade (00:11)
02:59 Powell 5 int (00:46)
King wasn't the first one to use the idea beloved community, but he popularized it. And he meant beloved not in a romantic sense, but you can think of justice, I have said, is the public face of love. And so we can think of love, we oftentimes think of it in not only in a romantic sense but in an egotistical sense and a very possessive sense. King was talking about something quite different. He was talking about recognizing our shared humanity, recognizing what Thich Nhat Hanh talks about our inter-being, that we are related, we're profoundly related. And so part of that's just recognizing it. Right? We don't have to create that, we just have to recognize it and then what we have to do is then live it. It's already there in some sense, and if we are going to have any kind of peace, any kind of happiness that's sustainable on a collective level, we will have to recognize it, and then organize around it.
03:45 NARRATION 2 (00:40)
john a. powell is a nationally respected voice on race and ethnicity. He leads U.C. Berkeley’s Haas Diversity Research Center and holds the Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion. He is on the faculty of the U.C. Berkeley School of Law.
In his book Racing to Justice: Transforming Our Conceptions of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society, powell proposes that American identity has two parents. The first parent was the period known as the Enlightenment, which gave us many great advancements such as democracy, rational thinking, modern science, and math. But it also gave us some problem children.
04:28 Powell 2 wkshp (01:30)
One parent was the Enlightenment -- and most of you probably didn't wake up this morning and read about the Enlightenment. But the Enlightenment really came out of a period where scientists and philosophers and religious folks basically believed that we could control the universe, literally we could shine a light on the universe and it would expose everything so that the conscious mind could know everything. We stood apart from nature. We stood apart from each other. And one of the big proponents of Enlightenment was Hobbes. And Hobbes, one of the things he said is that outside of society, in a state of nature we're in a constant state of war, where everybody wants everybody else's things, and so we're constantly fighting each other. And we only come into society to sort of have a society regulate a peace, and it's always an unstable peace.
But it's worse than that, because we come in society to have a regulated peace. But then we give all this power to the government, and now we have to be fearful of the government. So we need protection, which eventually became guns, to protect us from the government who was protecting us from each other. It sort of sounds like—a little bit like a paranoid schizophrenic, but he is considered the fountainhead of Anglo-American thought.
And this idea of rugged individual that -- not only rugged individual separate from each other, but also afraid of each other. So that was the Enlightenment project that we're still living often under, although it's starting to come apart.
05:58 NARRATION 3 (00:15)
Thomas Hobbes’ highly influential philosophy was that “the state of nature” is “nasty, brutish and short.” In a Hobbesian world it’s everyone for themselves. Then, says Powell, came the second parent.
06:13 Powell 3 wkshp (01:37)
The second parent was slavery. One was the Enlightenment, the other was slavery. And what slavery did, as this country was becoming a country and slaves, literally millions of slaves was in our midst, it created a radical other; it created something to sort of work against. And if you failed, eventually—first of all, slavery was important in terms of creating white identity, but then if you failed in your white identity, you had the risk or turning into the other.
And think about something like the "one drop" rule. The idea that whiteness was purity and one drop of black blood would destroy whiteness. So whiteness was in a constant fear, not just of the other, but the racialized other. And it's even worse than that because whiteness -- and this is something that we generally don't understand -- whiteness was not the top of the heap. We talk about white privilege, whiteness was never the top of the heap. Whiteness was called the middle stratum. The elites, corporate elites was the top of the heap. And they didn't think of themselves as white.
And this middle stratum was this group called whites who came to be known as whites, and they had two roles: One was allegiance to the elites, and control for the non-whites. And we had our first draft during colonial periods, and every white male could be drafted to control the non-whites.
And so this idea of whiteness was always about separation, and particularly separation from the racial other.
07:50 NARRATION 4 (00:42)
powell points to a hidden history that marked the founding of the American colonies: Bacon’s Rebellion in colonial Virginia in 1676.
A corporation – the Virginia Company of London - was authorized by the British monarchy to literally own and operate the Virginia Colony. To work the plantations, the corporation brought African slaves along with indentured servants from Europe, who were essentially slaves as well. At the time, they were called European, not white.
After the African slaves, European indentured servants and frontiersman banded together against the corporation, it began dividing and conquering by playing the race card.
08:32 Powell 4 int (00:53)
It's called the Bacon rebellion, and it was at that time people from Africa and European workers working closely together in a way that we can hardly imagine today. We think of racial separation and tension as almost natural. It wasn't natural. People lived, worked, fought, married, had children across these, what now we would call pretty severe, boundaries. After that rebellion, the corporations decided that it was in their interest not to have these two groups working closely together. And then they start passing things like anti-miscegenation laws. They didn't exist before then. And when they first passed, people thought they were ridiculous. What? You know, you can't marry someone because they look differently than you? That wasn't their experience; it didn't make sense to them, so it took almost 100 years for that to really take ground. So the whole notion of race actually came out of that period.
09:25 NARRATION 5 (00:19)
The corporate response to Bacon’s Rebellion proved whiteness a highly effective and durable tool to get people fighting each other instead of against their corporate masters.
john a. powell believes we’ve come a long way since institutionalized slavery – and we have a long way to go.
09:44 Powell 5 int (01:08)
In the 1940s, we started shifting, partially because of the embarrassment of Nazi Germany, and the attack on Jews, which borrowed heavily from the language of race in the United States, created this real embarrassment and difficulty. Plus the Civil Rights movement and there were things that were happening in the South. There were a number of things that came together that sort of moved us away from the official doctrine of white supremacy and white hierarchy.
But moving away from it officially didn't remove it from our psyche. Instead -- and we're finding out more and more about this now -- what we got was more associations, anxiety, organizing around race at an unconscious level, not so much conscious level. In fact, if you're still organizing race at a conscious level, then it's like, well, there may be something wrong with you because enlightened people don't even see race, the whole notion of color blind. We're not supposed to notice it.
What we know now is the conscious mind is a bit player in this movie. The real player is the unconscious mind, and we know the unconscious mind organize tremendously around race.
10:52 NARRATION 6 (00:24)
Powell cites neuroscience research that shows that we process 11 million bits of information a second, but our conscious mind processes only 40 bits. In other words, most of our processing is unconscious.
And, he points out, our perceptions of race or "the other" are a social construct and they can and do change.
11:16 Powell 6 wkshp (01:31)
So we get cues from society. So if people think badly of people called prostitutes or people called ex-offenders, or people called gay and lesbian, or people called felons, it's because there's a social, cultural message that tells people that's how they should think of them. And we think of them in oftentimes unconsciously, and that the extreme when you think of someone very different than us it's not only threatening, but we don't see them as human. There's a part of the brain that automatically lights up when you see another human being. We can actually watch it. And when we see, as society, homeless people, that part of the brain does not light up. But we can do things to actually help it light up. We can do things to reclaim the humanity. If we don't do that, that circle of humanity we keep putting people outside of it, at some point, the circle collapses, and all of us are screwed. We can't keep pushing people outside of the circle.
The tricky thing is we can't will this to be different. We can't take the 40 and say, I'm going to use the 40 to control the 11 million. It doesn't work that way.
But what we can do is tell stories, create association, pictures, symbols. The environment has a huge impact on organizing how the 11 million's processing things. So we can actually do things to actually create an environment that's supportive of our interconnectedness.
12:47 NARRATION 7 - Lead to Mid Break (00:36)
john powell cites further scientific research that shows that indeed our brains are built to categorize. But the categories are formed socially – and they can change with new stories that can alter worldviews.
The science also shows the innate capacity for compassion we all share for other people and living things.
So what can this transformation look like, up close and personal? Grace Bauer has taken that journey. Her story when we return.
This is "In Pursuit of Happiness: Becoming Beloved Community". I'm Neil Harvey. You are listening to The Bioneers: Revolution from the Heart of Nature.
13:27 MID BREAK (00:39)
14:06 NARRATION 8 (00:08)
To explore all available Bioneers radio shows and video programming, please visit media.bioneers.org
14:14 Music (00:02)
14:16 Bauer 1 wkshp (00:28)
In 2001, my son was put into a juvenile prison that the New York Times called the worst in the country at that time, for stealing a stereo out of a truck. It was a very violent and brutal facility. It was sold to me as a program that would help him get his life back on track after the death of my mother. And if you could've saw the glossy brochures going into it, you would understand why I made such a really poor decision to allow my son to be put in the system. (Music out)
14:44 NARRATION 9 (00:39)
In 2001, Grace Bauer was a stay-at-home mom with three kids in Louisiana, helping with her husband’s business. Then her son got in trouble with the law. She did not understand the consequences of the choice she made to put him into the juvenile detention system.
For starters, she did not get a lawyer, and lost all her parental rights. Nor did she realize the glossy upbeat brochure for a private detention facility masked a bottom-line-driven for-profit company that stood to benefit from his long-term incarceration. Things rapidly spun out of control.
15:23 Bauer 2 wkshp (00:44)
There were nearly 500 children a month being treated out of five facilities in the state of Louisiana at the time for serious injuries such as broken bones, sexual assault, broken eye sockets, broken jaws. So when I say it was a violent and brutal place, it certainly was, and my son became a victim of that violence, almost overnight.
He was 13 years old, weighed 90 pounds soaking wet, and he had never really been anywhere away from home before. And he went into this system and I thought he would come home in 90 days, but what actually happened was that he was adjudicated delinquent and sentenced to serve until his 18th birthday.
16:07 NARRATION 10 (00:03)
Grace Bauer then learned her son had been raped.
16:10 Bauer 2a wkshp (00:58)
And I was really mad at the two men that stood outside the cell in that prison and watched my son be raped and took bets on which kid would win. And I was very angry at Department of Corrections Secretary and Louisiana Secretary Schelder for not answering my letter when I wrote to him to tell him what happened to my son. And as long as I kept being angry, I couldn't see the good around me. And when I learned that it was a systemic problem and not an individual problem, and that there really were good people inside the system trying to do the right thing -- my mom was a nurse in the prison system for 25 years, couldn't be angry at her; she did the right thing. But I had to learn that it wasn't about individuals inside the systems, it was about systems themselves that hurt people.
17:08 NARRATION 11 (00:16)
Desperate, Grace Bauer looked for help. She found it with the organization Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children.
17:18 Bauer 3 wkshp (02:08)
When I first went to the first gathering of this group of folks, it was people that didn't look like me. It was all folks of color, and I was pretty afraid of going into that group, because I didn't know my place there and I didn't really know how to behave, and like I didn't grow up in a mixed community. I grew up in a really poor community, but it was an all-white community. And this group welcomed me in and took me under their wing, and a woman whose father and grandfather had been heavily involved in the civil rights movement in New Orleans taught me everything she knew about organizing.
What I learned in that group of folks was that we all had strengths to bring to the table, we all had assets to bring to the table, but because in our society we're taught to look at people that are different from us and not pay attention to them or to think about their weaknesses, that we often ignore everyone's strengths. And it's when we can stop ignoring those strengths that we can come together and fight, and fight we did.
And I learned so many things in that group of folks in Louisiana. And it was the banding together and being in solidarity and not letting society's thoughts about who people should hang with or do things with, we just couldn't allow that to happen to ourselves. We're much stronger in solidarity than we were torn apart by society's assumptions. And we knew that we were the group of folks that folks had many assumptions about, right? Because we're the criminals that raised the criminals that go into the prison system, and that all of you have to pay for, your tax dollars.
So we also decided that we had to step out as a group to say that's not who we are, that we love and care about our children, and we found strength in one another and among those assets of each other to be strong enough to step out together and to present a different idea of who we were.
19:26 NARRATION 12 (00:37)
Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children eventually closed down that prison despite its profitability and the state’s lack of political will. The impassioned grassroots group of mothers and families has reduced the number of kids in Louisiana’s secured facilities to 500, down from 2,000 when Grace Bauer’s son was first incarcerated. The group now has over 1,000 members nationally, a living model of beloved community.
Today Grace Bauer serves as co-director of Justice for Families, a national coalition of families with incarcerated children.
20:03 Bauer 4 wkshp (01:18)
And that work continues on with thousands and thousands of families nationwide today, and are moving to enact federal legislation that would actually drop the number of children in secure care around the country by half.
And so, the last thing I wanna say is that Avis[ph] Brock[ph] was the woman that took me under her wing, and she had no reason to trust a white woman, especially from the deep, rural South, and she had been very hurt in her lifetime by white folks, and her family had been incredibly mistreated by white folks in the New Orleans community, but she did trust me and she let me in. And not only did she let me in, but she taught me everything she knew. And when I didn't understand, she didn't get angry at me because I didn't understand, she took the time to sit with me and teach me, and help me to understand how the other side was seeing it, until we realized that we were not on two opposite sides, that we were all on the same side. [Applause.]
21:21 Music (00:03)
21:24 Bauer 5 wkshp (00:23)
I got to be a part of a beloved community and it transformed who I was as a person, and it transformed what I would do with the rest of my life. And also transformed what would happen in my children's lives going forward.
21:47 NARRATION 13 (00:36)
22:30 Powell 7 wkshp (02:17)
I think of Dr. King, the Reverend Dr. King, and he talked about righteous indignation. And I think these issues around race, around othering, around trying to claim ourselves are deeply spiritual. I think sometimes when we embrace this we're told you can't be indignant, because that's not really spiritual. You know, you're supposed to be whatever, smile. And to me, I go back to what King said, what is righteous indignation as opposed to unrighteous indignation.
And the way I understand him, coming back to the beloved community, is that when you share the indignation not in a petty, small, personal way, you may have those indignations as well, but you share the indignation that God has. So when God sees us throwing away beings, life, God is indignant, and you're sharing that indignation. And to watch one human being hurt another human being should cause us grief and indignation.
So I want to deepen our concept of love, but think about it not as love as opposed to indignation, but a love is the very reason that we're indignant, the very reason that we're indignant. But not cutting one person out, that person is the other and this person is not, but because these are both inner beings, because they're both expressions of God, that's the indignation.
And when King, knowing that he was about to be assassinated, he said, all of us want a good life. He was a young man—39 years old—I want a good life, and I'm out here struggling for other people; I'm out here struggling for other people. I come from a middle class, upper-middle class family in the South. I have a PhD. I could be comfortable somewhere, but I choose not to be. I choose to align myself, identify -- and he says, if I don't have the blessings of a good life, thy will be done.
24:47 NARRATION 14 (00:26)
There was another European Enlightenment thinker who wrote differently about who we are in relation to nature and why we are here — Rousseau. He said, yes, life is hard, but the way we deal with it is that we come together. Look to our solidarity. We depend on each other, and that's what makes life meaningful and how we find happiness.
25:13 Powell 8 int (00:30)
It's obvious that we're not here for ourselves. That makes no evolutionary sense. There's something larger than us, and to the extent that we can live that and celebrate that, I think we're healthier, and then that's love. So I think if we think of love in this way, and a beloved community in this way, when we hold all this stuff together, together.
25:43 NARRATION 15 (00:07)
"In Pursuit of Happiness: Becoming Beloved Community"
25:50 Music fade (00:18)
26:08 Bioneers BXIII - Program Close/Credits (1:35)
You can explore more Bioneers radio shows and video programming online at media.bioneers.org. For information on attending the National Bioneers Conference and Bioneers events in your area, please visit bioneers.org or call 1-877-BIONEER.
The Bioneers: Revolution From the Heart of Nature is a production of Bioneers and Collective Heritage Institute
Executive Producer: Kenny Ausubel
Written by Catherine Stifter and Kenny Ausubel
Senior Producer: Neil Harvey
Managing Producer: Stephanie Welch
Production Management and Station Relations: Kate Hunter
Distribution is by WFMT Radio Network
Interview recording engineer: Jeff Wessman
Our theme music is taken from the album "Journey Between" by Baka Beyond and used by permission of Hannibal Records, a Rykodisc label. Additional music was made available by Jordan Tice at jordantice.com. For more music information, please visit media.Bioneers.org
The opinions expressed in The Bioneers Revolution from the Heart of Nature radio series are those of the presenters and are not necessarily those of Bioneers and Collective Heritage Institute, the underwriters, or this radio station.
My name is Neil Harvey. Thank you for listening. I invite you to join the Bioneers in inspiring a shift to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations.
This is program number 04-13
27:52 Closing underwriting narration (00:38)
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