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American Catastrophe: “I Can’t Breathe!”

In recent weeks we all watched a handcuffed, middle-aged black man slowly die, asphyxiated by a white policeman because of a twenty-dollar bill; we watched a young black man die by shot gun, having been chased by three white men (one a former policeman) in trucks because he was running in the “wrong” neighborhood; and we read about the killing of a young black woman awakened in her home at night and shot eight times by police who had broken into the wrong apartment.  Even more recently a black man, asleep in his car, was awakened and ultimately shot dead as he ran from white police.  And then there are the reports of five black men, found separately, hanging — each dead in a tree — all of which were officially declared “suspected suicides.”  We are shocked, sickened, disheartened, sad, distraught, and guilty.

As Jung wrote in After the Catastrophe, white people are “possessed” by feelings of superiority to people of color, and the crimes that we and our forebears have committed against our darker brothers and sisters are “legion.“

Our savage atrocities are uncountable.  In the unilluminated regions of our own souls, our felt superiority secretly thrives, fed by hidden shadows.  But then we see it, close up, on our screens, and we hear it.  We are horrified and shamed.  We suspect our own complicit guilt, our own evil, but how do we live with it?   

Dare we claim it?  And what if we dare not? 

Our profound immorality causes profound suffering, the depth of which we can imagine only barely.  Yet we cannot undo, cannot resurrect, cannot heal, or even compensate. We join our voices with those of protesters against what we have witnessed and finally confessed: Black lives matter; let them breathe!

~April Barrett, president

June 2020

Jung Society of Washington

While we have learned so much from Jung's explorations of the human psyche, we are also aware that he, a Eurocentric man of his time, was not above racial stereotypes and cultural condescension.  We will continue to confess and explore such contradictions in our Society's educational offerings.

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