Tag Archives: Gandhi

Diversity, Unschooling Conferences, and Steinbeck, MLK, and Gandhi Quotes

I was inspired by a quote from John Steinbeck to write more about race, racism, and welcoming diversity in the homeschooling scene and at unschooling conferences. I also quote Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. from a great YouTube video you can watch here.

In 1961, Steinbeck talked with a wealthy white man in New Orleans, who admitted, “Surely my ancestors had slaves, but it is possible that yours caught them and sold them to us.” Steinbeck acknowledged this. Then the man explained:

“If by force you make a creature live and work like a beast, you must think of him as a beast, else empathy would drive you mad. Once you have classified him in your mind, your feelings are safe…. And if your heart has human vestiges of courage and anger, which in a man are virtues, then you have fear of a dangerous beast, and since your heart has intelligence and inventiveness and the ability to conceal them, you live with terror. Then you must crush his manlike tendencies and make of him the docile beast you want. And if you can teach your child from the beginning about the beast, he will not share your bewilderment.”

I think we all feel huge empathy for our fellow human beings and feel shame when we wrong them in any way. It’s a miracle that social creatures are given: we are unable to hurt others without feeling responsible and hurt ourselves.

Still, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said:

“So often people respond to guilt by engaging more in the guilt-evoking act in an attempt to drown the sense of guilt.”

(The quote starts around 1:30 in this great YouTube video and you can read the interview here.)

There are many ways we try to avoid guilt and shame that result in more guilt and shame. This can be totally unconscious especially, as this southern white man says, if it has gone on for generations.

A  lot has been acknowledged and healed, and huge progress has been made in the area of racism against African-Americans and everyone else. And a lot of shame has been shed.

Nevertheless, as Gandhi put it when he had a transformative experience with racism:

The hardship to which I was subjected was superficial – only a symptom of the deep disease of color prejudice.  I should try, if possible, to root out the disease….

The disease has still not been completely rooted out: significant racism exists today and old wounds and shame have yet to be completely healed.

I think sometimes when white people see African-Americans they feel confronted with an unacknowledged shame they fear and this can in fact result in racist behavior or just avoidance of the people or topic.

I had a lot of fear about writing about race and racism in my Homeschooling, Unschooling, and Diversity and Welcoming Diversity at Unschooling Conferences posts. I didn’t know how the white people who love the unschooling conferences would react or how African-Americans and other people of color would respond.

But I tried to write in a gentle and honest way. When I finally did it, tons of people viewed the post and some people shared their own stories and encouraged and thanked me for raising the issue. Personally, I’ve felt really freed through my writing on the topic.

And I hope ultimately it results in people being more welcoming and there being more diversity in the homeschooling and unschooling scene and at conferences.

I think the potential is great with homeschooling and unschooling in so many areas including progress in learning about diverse cultures and welcoming all people.

What I can’t stress enough is the more we do make an effort to do this the more we will naturally pass it on to our children. Instead of teaching our children “about the beast“: let’s teach our children about the beauty we can see in people of all races, from all backgrounds.

As usual, we teach mostly by example, which I think is both a sobering and inspiring thought.

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Filed under diversity, homeschooling, quotes, race, travel book, unschooling, unschooling conferences, worldschooling

Quotes from The Essential Gandhi

I’ve been reading The Essential Gandhi: An Anthology of His Writings on His Life, Work, and Ideas by Mahatma Gandhi, and compiling quotes from it. Reading it I’m impressed by the truth, compassion, determination, and non-violence in the way he thought, let alone acted.

Of course, I knew about him getting the English out of India through non-violent action but I didn’t know many details. It’s also just fun to get a glimpse into his mind and life in India, South Africa, and England at that time.

For example, he often condemns himself for being too lustful towards his own wife! Not something people in the U.S. worry about now.

Here’s some info about his early life with quotes and context.

Gandhi was born in India in 1869, he was married at the age of 13, and went to England to study to be a lawyer in 1888.

When he went back to India a couple years later he did very poorly as a lawyer but was soon hired to serve as the lawyer for a community of Indian (Porbandar) Muslims in South Africa. The editor of the book notes:

[Gandhi was a self-made man and the transformation began in South Africa…. His was a remarkable case of second birth in one life time.] -p30

Gandhi suffered racism, “insults” and “beatings”, when trying to ride first-class on the train, trying to stay at hotels, and trying to practice law in the courts. “Suffice it to say, all these experiences sank into me….” -p32

In fact, many years later he referred to his first experience being kicked off a train for refusing to leave his first-class seat as his “most creative experience.”

When he reached Pretoria, where he would work, he brought together a meeting of all the Indians in the city, mostly Muslim merchants and some Hindus. He was 24 and he gave his first public speech.

I had always heard the merchants say truth was not possible in business. I did not think so then nor do I now…. I strongly contested this position in my speech and awakened the merchants to a sense of duty….  -p33

He worked with Indians and the local authorities in improving the rights of Indians in South Africa and was known for not exaggerating and actually being understanding of the situation of the white man in South Africa as well.

My experience has shown me that we win justice quickest by rendering justice to the other party. -p43

Still, some newspapers villainized him and he was attacked by an angry mob. He refused to prosecute them:

I have no anger against them. I am only sorry for their ignorance and their narrowness. I know that they sincerely believe that what they are doing today is right and proper. I have no reason therefore to be angry with them. -p44

[Gandhi  had been interviewed by the Natal Advertiser…. This] interview and my refusal to prosecute the assailants produced such a profound impression that the Europeans of Durban were ashamed of their conduct. The press declared me to be innocent and condemned the mob. Thus the lynching proved to be a blessing for me, that is, for the cause. It enhanced the prestige of the Indian community in South Africa and made my work easier. -p46

The way Gandhi had both real compassion AND real determination seems to be what made him so effective.

Also apparently Gandhi had a bad temper growing up. Later he said:

I have learnt through bitter experience, the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power which can move the world. -xii

May we all transform the anger we feel at injustice into compassion and determination to change the world.

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Filed under change the world, quotes, race, truth