A Paradigm Shift

By Connie Goodbread

"If you don’t believe that your enemy can be redeemed you will become what you hate.” - Rev. Dr. William Barber II

“I learn from my enemies,” Killmonger retorts. “You have become them,” T'Challa responds.

I have said this so many times in the past year that it rings in my head at night when I am trying to sleep. If we are going to do things differently - then we must do them differently. Changing the race, face, gender, age of the oppressor does not end oppression. The way we end oppression is to stop being oppressors. Stop bullying. Stop manipulating others to get our way. Stop treating people like things. Stop feeling sorry for ourselves—find our power. Use it for love and justice.

Are we actually at the edge of a Paradigm shift? What does that mean? We have misused this term in the past. We have used it for small changes and so now we understand it even less than we should. For the definition I am quoting LaRahna Hughes and Renee Kauffmann from an email they sent.

“Adam Smith, author of Power of the Mind says, a paradigm is the way we perceive the world. Willis Harmon states that ‘a paradigm is the basic way of perceiving, thinking, valuing and doing associated with a particular vision of reality.’ Joel Barker, the author of the book titled Paradigms says more simply that, a paradigm is a pattern.”

So what are the patterns we are trying to change? What are the cultural biases that we are trying to become aware of so that we can disrupt our assumptions and chart a new course? The term White Supremacist Culture has caused some to feel like they are thought of as White Supremacists. And while there certainly are White Supremacists in the world, what is being called out is that there is a foundation in the culture of the United States of America that was laid in White Supremacy.

Remember that the Puritans, our foreparents, came to these shores believing that they were God’s new Chosen People. They came to build the city on the hill. The city on the hill has a wall around it and does not care much about God’s non-chosen people. They tried hard to wipe out the Indigenous people whose land they stole and they brought African people here to work that stolen land. The people who did these things—at least some of them—had to believe it was their right because they were from a superior group.

The Black Lives Matter movement is calling out the injustice and the cultural bias that still exists in this country. This injustice keeps people with darker skin in fear for their lives. The cultural bias and injustice that plays out in Unitarian Universalism keeps people of color out of our congregations and out of leadership positions. Not because we, as Unitarian Universalists want that, but because it is the cultural norm. We are all affected by oppression, in any form - including racism. Powerful people want those they have power over to see one another as the enemy. What do they gain from that?

The Me Too movement is trying to call out the injustices that have weighed women down for thousands of years. This country was also founded on the backs, bellies and thighs of women.

Many of us thought we made small strides for women’s rights but those strides are being eroded away at an alarming rate. Abortion rights are being dismantled, birth control will be next - there is movement to limit access on religious grounds.

We are in a time of drastic divisions and polarization. Maybe this has always been true and now it seems more frantic because it is all fueled by the massive amount of media—good and bad—that we have inundating our lives. I have to ask why? Why do we find ourselves at this moment in this state of division and polarization?

I sat at my kitchen table two days ago with members of my family where one of them referred to the Parkland students as mean, stupid, arrogant and confused. She said that they obviously bullied that boy and so that’s what happens. She is essentially a nice person. I thought to myself what is she reading that tells her that? What is she listening to? Everything I read and listen to tells me that the opposite is true.

So is the difference that I am reading the Tampa Bay Times, listening to NPR, watching CNN, Trevor Noah and MSNBC and she does not read the newspaper, listens to her friends, is on social media all the time and watches Fox News? And why do we do that, she and I? We gravitate to those people and behaviors that we are comfortable with, those we think of as normal, reasonable, comfortable, correct and sometimes, I think, easy. It is hard for me to listen to Fox News. If I stay in my wonderful warm liberal bubble will that make a difference? No, I have to do it differently.

Prior to the Election of 2016 many of the people I know and work with had a vision of a bright future where human rights are shared and equal. Where health care is one of those rights. People could marry for love—no matter who they love. Where women’s rights were a given. Where people are treated fairly and seen as equal in the eyes of the law. We weren’t there by any stretch of the imagination but the vision was there. That vision has not died.

In a paradigm shift there is no road map. Carl Jung thought, just before WWI that we were at the edge of a human developmental stage where we could have made a leap forward but instead we were plunged into a world war. We have been at war ever since. It is far easier to wage war than it is to wage peace. Peace is emotional work - the way the world is set up at the moment emotional work is not valued. Our economy is dependent on war. Our children are seduced over and over again by the false patriotism of war because they are the fodder for the machine. The machine makes a few people very rich and powerful.

A couple of days ago Natalie Briscoe said she had read that the last generation of girls had princesses as role models and that this generation of girls has generals. I thought—oh great—we’ve come a long way baby. Now women can not only be responsible for birthing the babies, now we can also be responsible for killing other women’s babies. Isn’t that just the oppressed becoming the oppressor? Isn’t that just women learning, once again, to play the game that has been set up by people who live lives of avarice, greed, lust and cruelty? People who see themselves as God’s new chosen people and all the rest of us as tools and fodder. Is the answer for those who identify as girls to take on the worst traits of humanity? Or is the answer for us all to take on the best traits of humanity?

We are all complicit. We all inherited this mess. We are not to blame for the past - but now is our moment. We are not to blame but we are all now responsible. Now is our time to write the next chapter. Now is our time to leave a better legacy. Now is our time to help men to claim their nurturing side and for women to claim their strength. Maybe the happiest most well rounded human beings are a fabulous mixture of both traits that we identify as feminine and masculine. Maybe those traits temper one another and make stronger human beings. Let’s open up the possibilities. Would that be a paradigm shift?

There is a right time to fight but violence should be a last resort. Violence is the norm. According to Everytown (for Gun Safety) research - on an average day seven minors are killed every day in the USA by guns. Black men are 13 times more likely to be killed by a gun then white men. And on average 50 women are shot and killed every day by intimate partners.

So what’s the paradigm shift? Was the pattern disruption actually the small movement towards human rights, justice and equity for everyone? And is this—back to the good old days when women knew their place and dark skinned people worked for the master - is that homeostasis (the system trying to pull back from the change and return to the way it was)?

How can we become more than what we have been in the past? What is the different way of doing things that is needed to make a real difference? Can any one individual even begin to have an effect on the system? I don’t know—but what I do know is that this is the one wild and precious life (Mary Oliver) that I get. I know I want the world to be a better place for the children, yes, but for the grandparents too. I know that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. I know that we have this time, this moment to make a difference. I know I need to be different. I know I need help. I know I need partners.  What is the world calling us to be? What is the world - the hungry, sad, unfair world of humanity calling for us to do?

"If you don’t believe that your enemy can be redeemed you will become what you hate. ” —Rev. Dr. William Barber II

“I learn from my enemies,” Killmonger retorts. “You have become them,” T'Challa responds.

About the Author

Connie Goodbread

Connie Goodbread is serving Unitarian Universalism as HOPE for Us Conflict Engagement Team Director. Connie served as Co-Lead of UUA Southern Region for three years.

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