“When grounded in truthfulness, action and its fruition depend on him.” – Yoga Sutra 2:36
The truth. It sounds so simple. Yet to be truthful with ourselves and the world around us requires a level of intestinal fortitude that, frankly, most of us (including yours truly) struggle with. After all, the truth can be uncomfortable and even scary at times.
As I grapple with an ever-changing personal life mired in the midst of early mid-life changes, I find at times (with increasingly frequency) that certain truths have become more fluid for me. It is often easier to play moral gymnastics than to sit in a stew of discomfort. Yet our culture as a whole struggles with truth, even when those truths are loudly proclaimed and factually accurate.
One of the reasons that racial tensions remain problematic in the United States is because far too many White Americans are averse to hearing people of color, especially Black Americans, talk about the realities of race as it is lived for non-white people. Dr. Robin Di Angelo, who is an associate professor of multicultural and social justice education, refers to this phenomenon as “white fragility.” That is most certainly one way to refer to it. Yet on a deeper level, we all have a level of fragility that keeps the truth from seeping in because to allow certain truths to penetrate our being means that we must face life as it is and not as we wish it to be. Our culture thrives on the “how it should be” and not the “how it really is.”
Yet depending on the nature of the truth that we are hiding from, the cost of our denial can be harmful. Personal and private denial of truth may only harm us, whereas mass denial of truth can rip at the very fabric of a society. This past weekend, Michelle Obama, the first lady of the United States, gave a commencement speech at Tuskegee University where she spoke honestly about her struggles as a Black woman and as the First Black Lady in the country. Of course, a certain segment of the population found fault with her words, but for the majority of Black women in the country, she spoke the truths that we live with daily. However, most of us don’t have a platform to share the realities we face and even when we do…well, our reality is often questioned or denied.
The collective truth for the majority of Black Americans is that America is not the bright and shining place that it is for our White counterparts. Yet that harsh truth is simply indigestible to many. No matter how many think pieces are written, studies are conducted and personal stories are shared, White America struggles with truth and would rather attack the messenger as in the case of incoming Boston University professor Saida Grundy who is under fire for a series of tweets on white supremacy and structural inequity.
However to live without truth, whether it is the acceptance of larger truths or our own personal truth, is a denial of humanity. When we deny the humanity of ourselves or others, we cause harm. At some point, we have to decide: Do we want to cause harm? Once we know that we are causing harm, we are faced with choices that only we can make. As for me, the truth is not fun, yet it is necessary to my own personal growth. I suspect in the larger sphere, the sooner the truth is accepted, we will move toward collective growth and maturity as a nation. Until then, we live a half-life where some beings are valued over beings and others will continue to struggle for inclusion at the table of humanity.