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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Matthews, Obama and Racism: What it Means for Us

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Jan 29th 2010

matthews obamaRacism has a long history in the United States and a recent comment by CNN Commentator Chris Matthews about Barack Obama has perked ears and minds that challenge the "need" to transcend race. A recent article by Jesse Washington of the associated press spells this out.

In her article she cites Blair L.M. Kelley, an associate professor of history at North Carolina State University, "When you say we're going to transcend race, are white people called on to transcend their whiteness?"

There are many sides to this issue. Some people might say there is too much being read into this and what Matthews statement meant was that the walls of division are coming down, not that African American heritage or pride should be forgotten.

For others, this clearly struck a chord and that needs to be acknowledged and met with curiosity so there is a better understanding. There has been a history of privilege among white people in America and a whole process of people of color who had to find pride in their culture when the gross, and now more subtle, message is that they are less than.

Psychologist and long time meditation teacher, Tara Brach, says that in order to really feel accepted people need two things. They need to feel loved and understood, and you need both. If you are loved, but not understood, you don't trust that love. If you are understood, but not loved, then you feel alienated.

So rather than everyone going to their corners, with some saying, "I'm so tired of this political correctness, it's way overblown," while others allow their anger to blow to catastrophic proportions as a result of this comment, what would be helpful is if we can cut our reactivity with curiosity.

That's right, get curious; Why might Blair Kelley respond the way he did about the concept of transcending race?" Or, why might some people feel that "political correctness" is overblown and that it only creates further drama?

As your mind leaps forward with the answer thinking it already knows, take a moment to step back and practice getting curious, because my guess is that if the other person is feeling misunderstood, that means you don't have the correct answer.

It's important to move in the direction of people feeling understood and cared about on all sides, that is the path toward intercultural harmony. Easier said than done.

What are your thoughts on this? Please share what's on your mind or any questions you have. Your interaction here provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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