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.

Enslaved African American men and women picking cotton. Photo by: A.R. Launey & Rudolph H. Goebel via Library of Congress

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.

John Deere cotton harvester at work, 2009. Photo by Kimberly Vardeman on Wikimedia Commons

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?

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5 thoughts on “Racism, Arrogance and the First Chakra”

  1. Avatar

    To be close to the earth, to be in nature, is to be close (think communion/union) with the Creator and experience fullness in our hearts and souls. For as Luther Standing Bear wisely said, “Man’s heart away from nature becomes hard.” }:- a.m.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Patrick, you are right! To be close to creation is to be in communion with the Creator. And the brand of spirituality we think is most responsible in our times–but that is true for all times–is Creation Spirituality!

  2. Avatar

    I agree with Rev. Fox’s insights and the depth of contemplative thought that brings them to the light. Because humankind seeks to be superior, separate and unique, it ends up separating itself from the Creator/God which is the greatest of sins. Everything that follows after setting such an intention can only lead to creating more and more and more sin…..a downhill spiral. Arrogant ignorance and racism are in the air we breathe all across the planet. I have to ask the question….”Where are we humans going with all of this…we who are supposedly the epitome of God’s creation?”

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Eternity, I’m glad that you were able to sense the source of Matthews insights come from a deep, contemplative place in his heart/mind. More than this, you have traced our problem back to its source, which is separation from God. From this we end up with racism and arrogance which you poetically describe us as being in the very air we breathe. Your question: ”Where are we humans going with all of this…we who are supposedly the epitome of God’s creation?” Well, the simple and most direct answer is, “We’re going to hell in a handbag if we don'[t change our ways!!!”

  3. Avatar

    Phila Hoops,

    Thank you for building this space for us. I had an usual and humiliating experience this morning. I decided to share my barren soul since this is the first time that I knew that my emails over the years from “The Fox” could be experienced in this new way. By humiliating possibly I mean it in the way this word began, as humble. I grew up in south Georgia with first generation folks whose parents were freed slaves. I was taught by my Christian parents that we are not to be close friends to these folks. It felt like they were inferior in many cultural and intellectual ways. Since I had experienced a new death death at age 4 where children of all races and cultures were there in the meadow with me, these teachings from adults didn’t feel true. So I rebelled against these prejudices. I laughed out loud when my Sunday School teacher asked us youngsters if children who hadn’t been saved would go to heaven.

    I began fighting for the earth, women, blacks, and Native Americans who I saw there in the meadow with me. I never saw myself as racist until I was hugged by a black man when I was 40. This morning I felt like a racist again. I felt I have been arrogant, possibly racist. My friends said that they couldn’t hear God like I seemed to. I began asking myself (or was it also the Spirit began asking me) about the times that I led mission programs sat with others as a spiritual director, and workshops. I feel that I may have something akin to arrogance about those times when I was trying to help convince others that they too could hear from God. It is a humbling feeling to being humiliating. I am mortal after all. Thank you for this new way of building a community of soul companions. Oh, and thank “The Fox” and please tell him that I loved his last book about creation spirituality, possibly I again experienced something akin to creation spirituality this morning. Thank you Phila.

    Daniel Robinson

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