The arrogance that comes when humans isolate themselves by nationality or religion, race or class, gender or sexual orientation, is evident everywhere in our world.
Racism is one example of arrogance. Wendell Berry writes about racism’s roots in an essay on “The Hidden Wound” and says, “the root of our racial problem in America is not racism” so much as
…our inordinate desire to be superior—not to some inferior or subject people, though this desire leads to the subjection of people—but to our condition. We wish to rise above the sweat and bother of taking care of anything—of ourselves of each other, or of our country.
We enslaved Africans in order to be free “of the obligations of stewardship,” and that made them economically valuable.
Berry is saying that our arrogance or feelings of superiority stem from our hostility to the earth and the ways of the earth and universe. First we made the earth a slave and then we justified the enslavement of other races to work the earth that we had already learned to hate and put down.
Dispossession occurred in particular when African Americans migrated to cities and lost their family farms (as did many white families). In 1920, black farmers owned 916,000 farms in this country, totaling 15 million acres. By 1988, blacks owned 30,000 farms totaling 3 million acres. Small farms were sucked into the industrial agricultural machine in the twentieth century, which made a few people and corporate farmers very rich but the land and the waters and small farmers very poor and dispossessed.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, p. 203.
To see the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: “Plantation negroes carrying rice in South Carolina, U.S.A.” 1895 photo from Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views, on Wikimedia Commons.
Queries for Contemplation
Do you sense an “inordinate desire to be superior” has become a condition of human beings in relation to the earth as well as to other humans? Is this path of homo sapiens at all sustainable? What can we do about it?