On Sunday August 18, 2013 Rev. Vincent Fuqua addressed the congregation assembled at the Community Miracles Center’s facility in San Francisco, CA. What follows is a lightly edited transcription of that lecture.
Good morning everyone. It’s always good to be here. It’s always a wonderful pleasure, and a wonderful opportunity,to speak here at Community Miracles Center.
A few weeks ago we had an incredible talk by Reverend Tony (Vol.26,No.6/Aug.’13) when he decided to have a talk around race, “A Discussion On Race.” It was really good to have our leader of our center have a discussion regarding a topic that can, sometimes, be a little uncomfortable, a little challenging, and difficult to speak about. I’m sure he was guided to do it, and as he mentioned in his talk, it was something that President Obama actually put out for our church leaders to do. He took on this challenge and did that. I’m so grateful that he did that, and I’m going to continue the discussion. What are my thoughts? What is my perspective regarding race?
One of the things I think it is important to remember is that even though it is a challenging topic, and sometimes difficult to talk about, for us as spiritual leaders, and spiritual healers, this is actually the perfect discussion to have, and we should welcome the opportunity. We have our own perspective on the way we see things, and we tend to come from a different point of view in the way we approach the world. I think this is a great time for us to be able to do this. I know, for me, it’s nerve-racking. (Rev. Vincent is African American.) It’s not one of the things I talk about a lot, even though it may not appear to be that way. I tend to shy away from discussions like this, because I get angry. Different upsetting things come up, and I don’t want to deal. I just want to back away from the discussion.
I started by asking myself a couple of questions. I wonder, why is it that I always have to discuss race? Is it because I’m a black man, therefore I should speak about it? Or is it because I become so complacent that I do not want to discuss it at times? Is it because I am too tired of feeling like I have always got to educate folks regarding race and racism? Is it because it’s an uncomfortable discussion to have? Well, all of those, yes. (laughter) Each and every one of those questions actually applies.
We are aware, we are as God created us. In this reality, I am a black man. In our society this means I do have some form of responsibility. It’s just the way the cards were dealt for me. It’s just the way it is. It’s important for me to look at that. It’s also important for me to get outside of my own comfort zone. I have to be able to do this, go forward and move forward regarding this responsibility.
The reason why, as we’re aware of, this discussion opportunity is coming up now, is that there have been a couple of incidents that have happened recently in our society. One of them actually happened further back, in 2009. That was regarding Oscar Grant who was a young African American man who was partying in San Francisco for a New Year’s Eve night. At the end of the night he was taking BART back home (Bay Area Rapid Transit – the San Francisco Bay area multi-city subway and light rail system) and then he was killed by a white, BART police officer at Fruitvale Station in Oakland (this story is now a major motion picture named *Fruitvale Station*). That event has been prevalent in my mind regarding this discussion on race. Of course, there is also the whole incident regarding Trayvon Martin that just happened recently, and how people have reacted to that.
So, I took a second and asked myself, regarding these two incidents that happened “How have they impacted me?” “What is it about them that brought up stuff for me?” I realized as an A Course In Miracles student, even though it may appear to be challenging or difficult, it’s important for me to pay attention to the experience that I am having with regards to these events. One thing that the Course continues to teach me, to remind me of, is that we are not victims of this world that we see. For me, that is so key. It’s challenging. It’s very hard to accept the fact that I am not to see myself as a victim – specifically as a black man – when in my mind, I feel that our society continues to manifest things that make me feel like a victim. It’s hard to not feel that way, but as Course students, for me as a Course person, I have to realize I am not a victim – regardless. I am not a victim. I have to learn how to be able to take that in, and look at that truth.
What I’m trying to do is to be more aware of the victim perception, to really be more in touch with what is going on, and to recognize there’s a different way of dealing with race, and the racism that exists. For me, it is about putting out healing, healing the world that we actually are in. Maybe that’s the route to go. I don’t have to feel like a victim. I don’t have to feel guilty. I don’t have to go into judgement, or into anger, or any of those things that bring negativity. I can actually put out the energy of healing when these issues come up.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with feeling those things. It’s just human nature for us to feel them, but the thing is for us not to stay stuck in them. We have to find a way to get ourselves out of that, and not to be stuck in that aspect of anger and judgement, and just a feeling of yuck, within our guts.
I decided to look up what racism actually means. I looked it up in the dictionary. According to the dictionary, racism means: “The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability, and that a particular race is superior to others. Racism is discrimination or prejudice based on race.” That’s what the definition is. However, when we think about it from an A Course in Miracles perspective, at least for me, when I thought about it from the Course perspective, it is all about separation. When you look at it, when you’re looking at race or racism, it’s about people separating us from who we actually are. That is not our purpose. Our purpose is to remind us that we all are one. Racism is also based on fear. That’s another thing the Course teaches us. If people come from fear, that’s part of the reason why people will act, or portray things, the way that they do. That gave me a chance to really look at racism from the Course perspective. Yes that’s the way the Course sees it. For me, this makes it easier to be able to handle race, racism, within our society because then I know that people are coming from the perspective of fear and separation. Many people do see things separate, because they actually are in fear. This allows me to be able to handle the situation better and not get into my own negativity with regards to racism.
I find it interesting how discrimination and prejudice was attached to these events. I, personally, believe that each and every one of us, including myself, have prejudice in us. We have all discriminated, at some point in our life. My assumption is that for someone who appears to be white, they may feel guilty about their discrimination. Maybe they think, “Oh my God! I can’t have those thoughts in my mind. People might think that I’m racist!” Those people might think something like that, but “No.”
The fact is discrimination has been imbedded in our psyche for so long, it’s going to be there. The thing is, to be okay, to own that you have those feelings and those thoughts. It doesn’t mean that you have to act on them, but I think it’s important to keep an awareness of your discrimination thoughts. I think that’s how we continue to move forward. It’s not about us always having to be politically correct. I think sometimes that just becomes way too much, because it’s denying who we actually are, and what we’re actually experiencing.
A Course In Miracles says this. “Be willing, then, to give all you have held outside the truth to Him who knows the truth and in Whom all is brought to truth.” (OrEd.Tx.17.6) This is the moment. This is the time for us to truly pay attention to who we are, and to not deny who we are. The fact is, we are healers. Just because we’re healers does not mean that we don’t have thoughts that may appear to be not so good. That is understandable. As long as we continue to come from a place of good, a place of asking for guidance, regardless of whatever we think, that’s the important thing to keep in mind. That’s the thing I think will continue to help us step out of our beliefs of guilt or shame, and more into a feeling of love, more into a practice of forgiveness. I believe that’s how we start breaking down discrimination and working on it. We have the skill. We have the awareness within us. We just need to trust it and bring it out more.
The other thing – and I’m going to be a little blunt here, and I do not mean to offend anyone on this, but I’m gonna put this out there. When I hear a person, or people, say that they don’t see color or race ... I’m sorry. That’s bullshit. (laughter) That is absolutely bullshit, because the reality is we do see it. We see color. We see race and unconsciously or not, we make some decisions on that perception. We need to own that, and not pretend that it does not exist. When I hear that, it just drives me nuts. “No.” I trust someone more when they’re able to own their color bias and say it. When they deny it, then for me, that’s when it becomes scary, because you really don’t know what’s going on then, what they’re really thinking in regards to race.
I have my own biases. I have my own prejudice against my own race. I have my own issues that I have to deal with as well. I know that if I have these, I’m pretty sure other people out there in the world have them as well. A Course In Miracles says this, “Be not concerned with anything except your willingness to have this be accomplished. (OrEd.Tx.17.6) We have to have the willingness to accept who we are in this world and to know that our purpose here is to extend love. Our purpose is to heal. That’s what we must start accepting. We really need to have the willingness to do that. We need to have the willingness to put our purpose out there, to learn how to forgive, not only ourselves, but also what this world made up. That’s what we have to do. Accept your experiences. Your experiences are so valuable to who you are. Allow those experiences to come out, even if it’s regarding race, even if you may have some unpleasant thoughts, because now you know, deep down, what your ultimate goal is. Your goal is to bring peace, to bring healing. That’s the important thing to remember. Don’t worry about those unpleasant thoughts that come up, because we know that happens. But we also know we have the skill set to shift those and see the beauty that really does exist within ourselves.
The whole incident regarding Trayvon Martin, and the not guilty verdict that was delivered for George Zimmerman, I cannot deny that when it was first .... It was very interesting that it was announced late on a Saturday night. I thought that was a very interesting way of announcing that out into the world. I must say my first reaction, and I’m surprised that I did not wake up my roommate, was “Oh yeah? Are you (expletive deleted) kidding me?” I was just in total shock regarding that. I was in disbelief. I could not believe that was the outcome. “Not guilty” was the verdict they came up with. But then, I don’t know what it was, maybe because of my spiritual practice, maybe because of A Course In Miracles, I shifted. I shifted in the next moment, and I didn’t stay in that anger that I was feeling at that time when I had my first reaction.
A Course In Miracles says this, “The real world is attained simply by the complete forgiveness of the old, the world you see without forgiveness. The Great Transformer of perception will undertake with you the careful searching of the mind that made this world and uncover to you the seeming reasons for your making it.” (OrEd.Tx.17.11) I needed to change my perception about this outcome and look at this as an opportunity of putting more positive energy towards the situation instead of anger.
There was another incident for me the next day. I was surprised, actually. I felt that I handled it pretty well. We have this person on our softball team who is very opinionated, who clearly has his thoughts on how he sees things, and it’s definitely, usually, very different than the way that I see things. The verdict came out that Saturday night, and we had a softball game that next day, on Sunday. We did our normal warm up. Then our coach gave us a little speech. Then this person made a comment. In essence, he was happy with the verdict that came out. It was interesting for me to see that a lot of my teammates looked at me to see how I was going to react, probably because I’m black. Reverend Peter (another CMC minister who plays on the same softball team as Rev. Vincent) looked my way just to see how I was. I was thinking I wanted to say something. I clearly wanted to say something, but I realized that was not the moment. That was not the time for me to do it. I think by me not saying anything, the team was able to stay focused on what we were supposed to be doing at that moment. We were just ready to play softball, and I did not allow myself to get into a big conflict about race with this individual because of his take on things. For me, that was a big lesson. I realized that I didn’t need to react quickly. I needed to take a moment, take a step back, listen to the Holy Spirit, listen to my guidance, instead of immediately reacting.
A Course In Miracles says this: “In the light of the real reason which He brings, as you follow Him, He will show you that there is no reason here at all. Each spot His reason touches grows alive with beauty, and what seemed ugly in the darkness of your lack of reason is suddenly released to loveliness.” (OrEd.Tx.17.11) Yes there is a law in Florida that allows what George Zimmerman did to not be a crime. Now it’s our goal to bring this to the light instead of looking at darkness.
I have another related challenge, because I go to a conference every year. It’s the National African American MSM Leadership Conference. We go to different places every year. In January, we’re going to Florida the state that just acquitted George Zimmerman of any crime. We’re going to Orlando, Florida. That’s where we’re going, all of us black men. We’ll be congregating in Florida, and my initial thought was to tell my boss I did not want to go. I was getting ready to email the organization and tell them that they needed to change this location and move the conference somewhere else.
That was my initial thought, but then I realized, “No that’s not necessary.” This is an opportunity for us to heal. It’s an opportunity for me to heal, and more importantly for me, it’s to have an opportunity to be able to share my perspective of how I’ve been dealing with this whole incident that happened. It’s going to be challenging, because being with a whole bunch of black men, black gay men – they have their opinions. They have their thoughts, and odds are, I’m going to be against the grain. People are probably going to be angry, want to be a victim, and just want to yell all this stuff. My goal, and my challenge, will be to try to stay present, try to stay in moment and help people to see the light in the situation. My goal will be to help people realize we actually are having a discussion about race in our society, and that’s a good thing. That’s a beautiful thing that I think is important for us to hold on to.
A Course In Miracles says, “All this beauty will rise to bless your sight as you look upon the world with forgiving eyes.” (OrEd.Tx.17.12) Forgiving eyes, that’s what we need to have. Look at this world through forgiving eyes no matter what happens, even with the incident with Oscar Grant who was killed in our own back yard. I need to recognize that the officer who shot him had his own stuff going on as well. One of the great things about these situations with Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant is how the parents have dealt with the death of thier sons, with such grace, such spirit, such amazing gifts they are giving us. That is the being that we need to hold on to.
I know it’s challenging. I know it’s not easy, but it’s a wonderful way of looking at these events. It’s a wonderful way of addressing any uncomfortableness. When addressing issues regarding race or racism, look at them not from a deficit but more as a positive thing. They are the way we can allow people to talk about what’s going on with them about race. We want to be able to put that out there in the world, because that’s how the healing starts. Keeping things bottled up doesn’t help us. That’s what puts us back. That’s not how we’re going to do it. We’re going to move foreword, and this is the opportunity for us to do that.
I recently saw the movie Fruitvale Station. I was a little nervous about going to see it. I knew it was going to be intense. I knew what the outcome was going to be. Some people were saying they didn’t like the movie because they felt like it painted this person, Oscar Grant, too good. My first reaction was thinking, “Are you assuming that every young black man is bad, that nothing is good in them?” But that’s their perception. That’s their opinion. I have to learn that’s just the way they see it. This doesn’t mean that they’re bad, it’s just their own perception. In reality, if you actually saw the movie, it showed a balance. It showed someone who, yes, struggled. It showed someone who made some decisions that were not good, and we’ve all made decisions that were not good in our lives, but it also showed someone who wanted to do better in their life. That’s the image that I think is important for us to keep in mind. Yet I think many people in our society can’t see that. They just want to see all the negative things, but don’t see all the things that someone is doing to make their life better. That’s what I think was one of beauties of the movie that I liked. I really appreciated that it did show that balance. It showed the balance of not so good, and good, in a young black man, which I think is important for our society to see. That’s the thing for people to take in and look at. If we do, we can recognize that’s who we all actually are. We struggle. We make decisions that are not good. Yet we learn from them, and then we do make decisions that will be helpful. “All this beauty will rise to bless your sight as you look upon the world with forgiving eyes. For forgiveness literally transforms vision and lets you see the real world reaching quietly and gently across chaos and removing all illusions which had twisted your perception and fixed it on the past.” (OrEd.Tx.17.12)
This is our moment. This is our time to allow ourselves to really examine where we are, where we are within ourselves, when it comes to race. How can we continue adding a more positive energy to this situation, and not allow our own anger and our own guilt to weigh us down? We are spiritual leaders. We are spiritual healers. Let’s put that to use. Let’s allow ourselves to get out of our comfort zone and be okay with having an open, honest, and healthy discussion regarding this. Yes, I am a black man in this society, but I do not have to be a victim. I do not have to succumb to being a victim. I can be a hero. I can spread the word of forgiveness, and I can spread the love that actually exists in this world.
That’s my talk. (applause) ♥
c/o Community Miracles Center
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
This article appeared in the September 2013 (Vol. 27 No. 7) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.