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Black Leadership Analysis

This is an unofficial Spiral Dynamics blog. It is not endorsed by D. Beck PhD.

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Black Buddhist

My Story of Nigrescence: Internalization

So I did not feel that there was anywhere I could go to feel accepted. Either I could join integrated groups and become raceless or black groups that would force me to be pro-black/anti-white. The feeling that I had nowhere to go forced me to try to create my own safe space. That is what led me to create this website Black Leadership Analysis.

I wanted to evaluate the thoughts of black people using Spiral Dynamics. I often would read blogs and articles on Spiral Dynamics that mention black people. Most of the time black people were classified as Red/Blue and whites were classified as Orange/Green. Of course, all statements would be qualified by there are black and white people in all memes, but ultimately black people were discussed as at a lower state of development. The dynamic of blacks being in a less complex state was also very prevalent in The Crucible.

The idea that black people are at a lower level of development has been prevalent in science from the very beginning. Dr. Cross explained the origins of this idea in psychology. Now I do not think the founders of Spiral Dynamics intentionally continued the tradition. However, I think science’s inability to confront its racist history has allowed the idea of black inferiority to exist.

Now I do not believe that it is impossible for black people or white people to be generally at different levels of development. However, to make the assertion one must look deeply into Black America. Not just a few hundred test subjects. The great thinkers have to be evaluated. It is possible that higher order thinking appears in a different manner. Once one explores the possibility that the intersection of ethnicity and ego development makes the memes appear differently, one can then assess if black people are generally at a lower level of development.

One of many barriers in Spiral Dynamics is the idea that anyone that talks about ethnicity is Red Meme. It is believed that once a person moves up the Spiral they naturally let go of ethnicity. The goal will be creating a raceless intellectual. If this is the final goal, the Spiral Dynamic community should expect limited influence.

I also felt Spiral Dynamics could be beneficial to the Black community. Often it is difficult for us to have political or philosophical dialogue without immediately moving to ad hominem attacks such as: “you’re brainwashed” you’re a hotep”, “you hate yourself.” The lack of dialogue prevents black people from developing an informed social philosophy to help us navigate an often hostile world.

Now there is quality political discussion within the Black academia. However, there needs to be a method to bring these strategies to the mass of people. If normal people don’t have a way to dialogue, there will be unnecessary division and stagnation. For a group of people already disadvantaged, not being able to dialogue will be detrimental.

I began with the website by randomly picking leaders. The first one I did was Brother Polight. I found him to be pretty impressive from the few YouTube videos I watched. I watched all the videos on his YouTube channel looking for common themes. Once the common themes were determined. I would judge what meme is central to the person’s thinking.

Facebook is the best place to share these articles. However, I realized every Facebook group on Spiral Dynamics was not down to talk about race. So I created my own group Black Leadership Analysis. I wanted it to have it be a place were Integralist and Black people can talk about race. The focus would be on black thinkers. I went through and recruited people I felt to be influential in Spiral Dynamics. It was disheartening to find so few black people in the Integral Facebook Groups. However, all the black people I saw got a personal invitation.

So my Facebook Group has always allowed all ethnicities to be part of the discussion. However, the discussion focuses on black issues and the thoughts of black leaders. Many black members have criticized discussing black issues in front of whites. They mainly think we should “air dirty laundry” to outsiders. My rebuttal is black issues are always in the public sphere. It is better to provide outsiders the opportunity to hear black people to discuss issues candidly to give them perspective.

I also had one person that was white that believed race discussion could only be Red Meme. He was also a big Sam Harris fan. He took one of my posts down in an Integral FB group. So I decided to recruit him for Black Leadership Analysis. I thought it would be good to have someone against the idea in the group to see how my ideas would play in front of the most conservative Integralist.

So the white guy from the other Facebook Group, let’s call him Bill, claims not to see race. However, the first post that he tries to post is of Sam Harris blaming police brutality of black people’s gangster culture. The idea of the video was that Black people idolize gangsters and criminality. Exalting criminals leads to violence and more interactions with the police. Increased police interactions then lead to instances were police use brutal force. I found this an odd video for a person that does not see race to post. I allowed the post because I wanted to critique the video.

My rebuttal along with most people in the group was black people can’t be simplified into a monolith. Also, white people control the “culture” that he has easy access to through television and radio. Ultimately, only a person that has deep-seated anti-black beliefs would even find the video valid. Bill did not change his position, but he understood our perspective. Ultimately, it was a constructive conversation.

Bill symbolized to me the problem with merely dismissing those that speak on race and asserting that black people are at a lower stage of development compared to white people. Because one is living in a culture that dismisses outsiders as savage one will be predisposed to anti-black views. The only way to re-evaluate these views is to study the other sub-culture thoroughly. Until a sub-culture is carefully examined, one can not make any declarations. The study should go beyond test subjects and include the great thinkers.

Ultimately, I want to build a genuinely multi-cultural Integral community. I understand it will take more than one blog to accomplish this. However, I think the discussions we have will help to improve the Integral and the Black community. The world is at a turning point right now, and if the proper dialogue is not established the world could turn to fascism.

My Story of Nigrescence: Emersion Immersion

The People of Color Sangha
Most of my life I have never felt included in black spaces. As a child and as an adult I felt singled out as not black enough.

At the beginning of 2016, I decided to work on my ability to build relationships, especially with those within my race. I had always been perceived as an outsider or someone not aware of blackness. I had also had a horrible experience in Concerned Black Men (CBM). After the CBM experience, I had no real interest in joining a specifically black organization.

I had known about the People of Color Sangha for three years before I went the first time. I just figured I would meet a ton of extremely judgmental people that would judge by expression of blackness negatively. I had been part of another Western Buddhist Sangha for many years. After a while, my relationships in the Western Buddhist Sangha became strained because of racial misunderstandings. Ultimately, I needed a new group.

I went the first time, and I was very nervous about going and being rejected. That was usually how things went for me in black organizations and groups. So I sat quietly and just said hi to a few people.

Then a Dharma (Truth) sharing started. For those that are not Buddhist the Dharma sharing is when the members of the Sangha talk about their personal experience on a subject. I can’t remember what the theme was that night. For some reason, I decided to share my experience at CBM in which the other members made a lynching joke after they found out I was dating a white girl. I expected to get ridiculed, but as it turns out people were receptive and sympathetic. After that, I felt more comfortable.

I have been going to the People of Color Sangha for two years now. It is my favorite Buddhist group in the city. My experience with the People of Color Sangha is also the first time I have felt genuinely respected in a group of black people. I express myself reasonably freely and am developing some pretty strong honest friendships.

Ambedkarite Buddhism

One of the problems I see in Western Buddhism is its lack of focus on social justice. All religions use some spiritual bypass when talking about ethnicity. I
I do not think Buddhism does a worse job than other religions. I just felt the infrastructure in Buddhism can deal with race in a more robust way. Just like with all other personal issues I had used Buddhism to help me through, race can become something that no longer gives me anxiety, and at the same time, I would not have to ignore. With Buddhism, I could see race as it was.

Of course, I had found black Buddhist teachers. These teachers used blackness to inform Buddhism and Buddhism to inform their blackness. The best example of this is Lama Rod Owens. He is originally from Georgia and is steeped in the black church. He converted to Buddhism in adulthood and had many of the same problems with racelessness in the Buddhist community. He had not turned bitter though. Instead, he studied the works deeply to understand where he and his community fit in the religion.

Lama Rod along with other teachers showed me how to become authentically black and Buddhist. However, I still wondered if we were projecting solutions onto the religion or is social justice inherent in the faith. Another aspect I felt necessary in adopting a religion from another community is staying true to its origins. I wanted to know that social justice was always a part of the Buddhist expression historically and in Asia.

Buddhism is an Asian religion because it started there. Many Western Buddhist try to play down the importance and centrality of Asia in Buddhism. Some do it because they want the religion to be inclusive and egalitarian. Others want to whitewash the religion. Still, others have done a spiritual bypass of ethnicity and couldn’t deal with it.

In my mind, I have to find a cultural and historical case to include Buddhism in my understanding of social justice. Luckily, I discovered Bhimrao Ambedkar from a Facebook post. I found out that he was a political reformer from the lowest Indian caste. I have written extensively about him on this blog as a result of my deep admiration for him.

However, I feel it is essential not only to know the history from an intellectual standpoint but know understand the community produced by the religion. I went online to google Ambedkar organizations in America and discovered the Ambedkar Association of North America. I found out they had weekly online meetings and began attending them. From there I found out about tons of Ambedkarite organizations in the USA. I have gone to many events and felt welcomed. Many are interested in my story and connecting the struggle of Dalits and African-Americans.

Conclusion

Ultimately, I consider myself connected to the social justice struggle. So my Immersion stage looks different than what originally was purposed by Dr. Cross. However, I do think I have delved into my culture more lately than any other time in my life. I hope these experiences will help me to show up in the world in a more loving manner.

My Story of Nigrescence: Encounter Part 1

I have recently discovered the psychological theory of Nigrescence. The theory gives a natural progression of how individuals grow to embrace their ethnicity. It also details many pitfalls one can fall in while discovering who they are.

There are five stages in the theory of Nigrescence.

  1. Pre-encounter: A time early in life when one does not use their ethnicity to create a worldview. It can also be used to describe people that purposefully neglect how their ethnicity shapes their worldview.
  2. Encounter: An event or series of events that create psychological discomfort that leads one to modify worldview
  3. Emersion: Individual rebel against mainstream culture and surround themselves with the new ethnic culture
  4. Internalisation: Individual moves past rebellion and can re-enter society with ethnic consciousness. The individual will no longer separate themselves yet interact with people of all backgrounds
  5. Commitment: Individuals have an authentic commitment to their ethnic struggle. Most of their time is used building a better world

This blog post will cover the time I spent in Encounter

Encounter

I had always had a hard time making friends and building relationships. Alot of my stumbling blocks involving relationships involved suffering from depression. To cure my depression I used many methods simultaneously. I began meditating which led to learning Buddhism. In addition, I began to study psychology which eventually led to studying Spiral Dynamics.

So the biggest problem I had in relationships was depth. I knew alot of people but I had no one I really could share intimate experiences with. I could find someone to eat dinner with or going to the movies with, but no one to call when I was really down.

One example of what the trouble I was having was my relationship with Marvin. Marvin is a Jewish guy I met at a Buddhist Temple. He was really gregarious and we always talked after service. I never thought we could really be friends. He was about twenty years older than me and about to retire. I figured we would have very little in common. However, I did find him to be interesting so I decided to do second body practice with him. For those that are not Buddhist, second body practice consist of meeting out in public and talking about how Buddhism affects out life. I usually last about an hour a week for a month and a half.

Over our sessions we got to know alot about each other. He told me alot about his job and how he was glad to retire. I told him about fighting my depression and how I was working to build relationships. I think we really provided each other good advice. Over the session we got really close. He would then invite me to different events over the years.

I was always careful never to talk about race to people that are not black. However, over the course of our talks the subject would come up. I mean my ethnicity is the a large part of my experience. Sometimes I would go into it without even realizing it. Then Marvin would comment and it would normally offend me. He would always say I was above race and should no longer thing about it. In his mind, I very well could have surpassed race. However, to the rest of the world I had not.

Well Marvin called me to hang out with him. He knew I liked dancing and decided to take me to this modern dance recital. He spent a lot of time complaining that his wife never wants to go and hang out with any of his friends. His wife was from the Phillipines and spoke broken English. It was obvious why she would feel uncomfortable hanging out with professors that Marvin was taking classes from. Yet, I sat and listened to make sure he knew I cared.

That night I did not say much. I had just started my blog Black Leadership Analysis. I was really hyped because the third article I wrote got 100 views in a day. He kept asking me what I was up to. So I finally told him about the blog.

His reaction was very telling. He goes on this long diatribe about how I shouldn’t worry about race and I should only worry about my personal advancement. He went on to say worrying about teaching black people is a waste of time. He felt generally black people were unintelligent and not much can be done about it. Needless to say I never spoke to him again.

Now I don’t believe Marvin to be malicious. I see him as a natural product of a spiritual community that bypasses race. If we don’t have a method to discuss and work through race in a constructive manner, we will get people like Marvin. Marvin did not hate people of other ethnicities, he actually made an effort to be around people that were not Jewish. Yet, his meager understanding of ethnicity kept him from having empathy and listening. It also kept him from questioning his preconceptions.

This story is not unique to my experiences in new age spiritual communities. I always censored myself to seem raceless. Not because I was ashamed of who I was, but because I knew most in the community would be insensitive. This led to me just being in their space not making the space ours. I would come, smile, nod, but never really achieve a level of intimacy. My lack of intimacy caused the discomfort that made me move to the next phase.

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

Accomplishments

  • PhD in Transformative Learning from California Institute of Integral Studies
  • Opened a Zen Center in Oakland, CA
  • Zen Buddhist priest in the Suzuki Roshi lineage
  • Given Dharma talks at San Francisco Zen Center and Deer Park Monastary

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel (b. 1952) is a Buddhist teacher in the Zen tradition. She is of African- American ethnicity and only two generations removed from slavery. Her landmark work The Way of Tenderness: Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender her take on Buddhism. The book explains how universal suffering and individual suffering are the same and different.

Her story begins with her first Buddhist sit in 1988. A feeling of separation and unacceptability to the mainstream world motivated her quest for deeper meaning. She understood these feelings were connected to the systematic and historical suffering of her people. Initially, the path of activism provided an outlet for her angst. Eventually, she needed more holistic methods.

Entering Buddhism presented some difficulty because she had to leave Christianity. The black church not only serves as a spiritual community but an underpinning of an entire subculture. Often in rural areas such as Louisiana, the black church is the only formal organization a black person could join. Dr. Manuel equated blackness with membership in the church. She had to move past these feelings of betrayal to embrace the path of Buddha.

In The Way of Tenderness she uses the connection with the body to explain how universal suffering and individual suffering are interconnected. The body must be accepted as part of nature as the vehicle in which you experience the world and how the world experiences the individual. This body connects a person with an identity that distinguishes them from others. These identities can cause suffering, yet they also connect a person with their individual history and support from people with the same identity. The connection with identity can be emotional, powerful, and empowering.

The identity which Dr. Manuel frames as race, sexuality, and gender can’t just be ignored or obsessed over to create a false personal narrative. It is through an understanding of race, sexuality, and gender that a person begins to dissolve the illusion of self. The social justice struggle of these various groups connects the Dharma back to the physical world. Once people have these experiences with oneness, they will be motivated to expand them to the people they love and the communities they reside.

In the Buddhist or Enlightened communities issues with race, sexuality, and gender are seen as personal problems out of the scope of the religious community. Also, those still struggling with issues of identity are not enlightened and attached to the concept of self/ego. Instead of actively working toward a more equitable society the person needs to “let go” of ego. The denial of identity takes the Dharma and makes it only a metaphysical concept. True Dharma changes the metaphysical and physical world.

It is essential for enlightened communities to define “letting go of ego.” If self is an illusion then there is nothing to “let go of” and nothing to “attach to”. The release of ego is the understanding of the interconnection to all other living beings. The knowledge that all of our roots and fates are intertwined. Something happening to one person, real or imagined affects all people.

When enlightened communities do not discuss issues of identity, these problems fester and boil over. The unresolved issues of race repel members of minority communities. It also reduces the ability of introspection in members of the majority population. If a member of an enlightened community is not doing serious work in the area of introspection, they can not claim to be different than the population at large. Self-introspection will lead to an understanding of collective suffering and a desire to actively remedy the collective suffering.

In the social justice movement, which Dr. Manuel is connected with through membership in Pan-African associations and study of indigenous African religions, individual suffering is used to explain all life phenomenon. It is essential to understand what is personal narrative and what is systematic racism. In her meditation retreats, she has activities focused on people telling their personal narratives. Her retreatants will either disconnect from their story or see how their story is interconnected with everyone else. Once a person disconnects from their story, their anger moves through them. It is not ignored nor is it dwelled on as a controlling feature of their life. The individual can then determine what needs to be done in a given situation from a rational perspective.

Her understanding of universal and individual suffering leads her to support cultural sanctuaries, spaces for people of color (POC) to heal in spiritual communities. POC Sangha’s allow black people to openly discuss how they use the dharma to heal with past wounds and maneuver in a racially charged world. It is difficult to discuss these issues among groups of mixed race because whites often feel attacked. Since creating strategies to deal with racism is valuable for the progress of a spiritual community, POC spaces are vital. These spaces do not exclude whites to impose superiority, or to keep whites away from knowledge. They are practical workspaces to use the dharma to heal and grow.

Dr. Z. Manuel Analysis

Dr. Manuel has Integral consciousness. She details how suffering is at the same time universal and individual. She also explains how focusing on the individual aspects or the universal aspects could cause pathologies in individuals and communities. The Integral community needs to study the work of Dr. Manuel.

She needs to be commended for having the courage not only to take on the Dharma community but the social justice movement. Integral approaches are normally both/and not either/or. Having perspective at a higher level allows her to criticize both camps. Being at second tier also allows her not to be threatened by criticism of both communities or need to defend the communities at all costs.

For more on Dr. Manuel

Here official website click
http://www.zenju.org

Also, a SoundCloud playlist has been created titled: Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

Sources

  1. Www.zenju.org
  2. The Way of Tenderness: Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender by Dr. Z. Manuel 2015

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