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Juneteenth: Other or Brother? ~Deconstructing the myth of America by Barbara Kaufmann


The shadow side of human nature springs from defense mechanisms deeply embedded in biology and psychology. Not an abstract at all, the shadow is the expression of the dark side of the human ego. Very few people meet circumstances in their lives that cause them to conquer the wildness of their own ego.

However, the dissolution of the human ego is taught in highly advanced spiritual and religious practices of some Eastern and esoteric Religions which focus on self-actualization as the mark of an advanced devotee. Spiritual mentors and Gurus refer to the goal of enlightenment proceeding from the impulse to "kill the ego."

Like a wild animal, ego resists taming and integration with the Self for it dreads its own demise. The dark and loathsome qualities of the ego are so unbearable to the psyche, that the mind must deny and repel those darkest inclinations by ascribing them to others. It's like saying to another: "here, will you wear and demonstrate this awful human trait for me?" The shadow then, projects that abhorrent part of the self onto that "other." In that way, the psyche avoids the pain of acknowledging an unacceptable and loathsome self-portrait.

Unfortunately this denial of the ego's shadow causes loathing for the "other" and promotes hatred, creates enemies, fosters war, while often forming hate groups who find tribal identification and fierce loyalty with those who are like-minded. (Think, for example, 'White Supremacists.') When everyone around you is projecting their shadow qualities onto others, it makes it easier and more socially acceptable for you to deny your own shadow and its culpability. Projection is a defense mechanism to protect the ego.

"Otherizing" is to make "other" those whose human qualities we refuse to acknowledge in self. Humans are made "other;" cultures are made "other;" nations are made "other;" races are made "other;" societies are made "other;" generations are made "other." And especially war makes "the other." And getting people to identify some humans as "other" is an effective way for leaders to recruit loyal followers or allow them to do things which under other less-charged circumstances would be anathema to human nature.

America has a dark shadowy history that some in our culture find so frightening that they just deny it ever happened. To acknowledge the genocide and slavery in our history is so contrary to the picture we want to paint of ourselves as lofty and shiny Americans as to be egoically threatening. The fierceness of the debate about Critical Race Theory is an outward trajectory of the inherent terror in acknowledging the human shadow within. We would actually have to own our singular and collective human impulse to make certain humans "other"— our shadow—so much so that we make it acceptable to devalue their very lives.

Juneteenth presents a small window, a celebration of freedom for African Americans wherein we can approach, accept, and dismantle the history that surrounds and allows tribalism. It invites the examination of White supremacy, lynching, oppression of people of color, systemic racism, the Black Lives Matter movement and the propaganda that surrounds White Privilege and the Native and African American genocide. We, not they, are the ones who perpetuate the myth of American superiority in the world. Would our collective ego not survive if we acknowledged our past? Our human treachery? Our very nod to our past and our shadow would be reason enough to dismantle the systemic misguided American pride and demolish all the nasty "isms" that inhabit the collective and cultural myths of America's fragile squeaky clean (Whitewashed) history.

Juneteenth celebrates a people, an acknowledgement of their humanity, and their final freedom. Originally the Emancipation Proclamation initiated by Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863 freed the slaves. Texas delayed telling its Black citizens until June 19, 1865—a full two and a half years after the Proclamation was made to abolish slavery.

Juneteenth, June 19, 1865 was a celebration to commemorate the day of freedom. The sentiment from Texas was typical of those who owned slaves and depended on slavery to harvest the crops. Slavery was unpaid labor and it was hard to give up for those who owned slaves. Beyond the Proclamation were amendments designed to prop up the freedom of slaves.

While the government was attempting to prop up the freedom, all manner of obstacles and laws in the Reconstruction were made to keep the Black population restricted. Jim Crow laws, restrictions on voting that required literacy (denied education, most African Americans at that time were illiterate) which precluded them from voting.

The history is not pretty. Later events were deliberately designed to distract and disenfranchise the freedoms of former slaves. Discrimination has never abated despite the proclamation. Today there is a sequence of events that illustrates how African Americans are treated differently than Whites who enjoy White Privilege. Black men die at the hands of law enforcement; the prison pipeline still exists, the statistics surrounding Blacks and law enforcement are still disproportionate. It's as if the Black life doesn't matter—thus the movement to change the treatment of Black Americans today via "Black Lives Matter!" The shadow's grip allows even just the naming of Black lives to matter, to be met with vile resistance. Voting is now restricted by gerrymandering, by certain laws enacted in a variety of states that prohibit complete freedom to vote.

Juneteenth has been celebrated on and off over the years. Civil rights and other movements have overshadowed and distracted from its gravitas. It is now a celebration that holds the promise of educating those who have no idea what the date connotes or the deep meaning associated with it. Juneteenth is a move in the correct direction but the history of Juneteenth and its connection to individual and collective shadow is a more important revelation. A hundred and fifty years later, we still await equality. The injustice calls for more than our passive awaiting; it calls for our direct engagement to bring it about for those we rather call "brother" than "other."


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This article was written by Barbara Kauffman. Artist, activist and author, Barbara Kaufmann, One Wordsmith, writes "to simply change the world." Staff, writer and Sector Lead for the international Charter for Compassion, for 10+ years she has committed to making the world a compassionate home for all beings. Her concern about the threat of nuclear and chemical weapons led her to duty as a Sister Cities' Officer in one of the world's first partnerships between the U.S. and Soviet Union where her city collaborated with governments, the U.N., military and other entities to decommission weapons of mass destruction while making friends with former enemies.

An award-winning freelancer, she's written for the Huffington Post; Voices Education Project, the Charter for Compassion, Medium and other publications. She initiated a curriculum on bullying in all its incarnations dedicated to Lady Diana and Michael Jackson. Ordained minister and Spirituality Coach, she is a biographer, a founding case author for George Washington University School of Business, essayist and author of articles and provocative and performance poetry. Trained artist, journalist and photographer, she founded Walking Moon studios along with Jo Vander Grift and has written scripts and directed promo films and documentaries. 

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Monday, 29 May 2023
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