The Racial Shadow of American Politics

Fanny Brewster, Ph.D., M.F.A., LP

Some things have changed since I first wrote the introductory paragraph about my topic for the brochure that announced this conference. As events have unfolded, the shadow of which I speak this afternoon has revealed more of itself - especially with respect to racial issues. What have we learned about our racial selves and shadow that we did not know before Donald Trump became the Republican Party’s nominee? How has this learning affected us on a conscious level and what is the unconscious material that remains - waiting to push and shove and eventually to emerge - and demand that we change? How does race in American politics create a tension of opposites? And, finally, where is the third that will come to support a different kind of being and new ways of thinking that will move us to another place where skin color is no longer the primary factor in how we choose to live and how we co-exist with one another?

My family roots are Southern and go back through the generations to my ancestors who arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, aboard a slave ship. During my talk today I will refer to aspects of this Southern life because it has in fact helped create the racial complexes into which I fall. I will weave my personal story, with its resonances of racial complexes, in and out of this talk.

I begin my narrative today with a few thoughts about the shadow. Many, if not all of us have learned about and worked with shadow as a Jungian concept, either as analysts, clients, students, or from having an interest in Jung’s work. We think of shadow as Jung first spoke of it:  that function of psyche that wants to hide our secrets, embarrassments, and sufferings away from the eyes of others. Shadow is also what enables us to project onto the other. It gives us license to see the failings and faults of those around us (rather than in ourselves) in our various collectives of family, friends and strangers. In the realm of politics, we will be looking today at the shadow of racism in the American psyche. This is particularly challenging because our American racial shadow normally has some trickster energy, and I believe this is especially true in this election where trickster has shown up as an activation of the archetypal, collective energy in which we witness distortions and lies, like my grandmother used to say, “right in my face without no shame.” We can’t believe our ears! It has been an election of continuous revelation of the deepest parts of our collective racial shadow. I honestly had no idea when this election campaign began that I would feel myself caught so thoroughly in the energy of trickster or that I would come to see so clearly how the American racial shadow as a collective experience tricks us into believing we are separate from one another because of the accident of skin color.

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