I woke up today wondering about the human race. And how we run circles around our minds, with our bodies, with others and with too many or too few words and fall into a heap, exhausted but in reality not having moved at all. Sometimes even having regressed. A highly individualized society may indeed be some of where our downfall lies. I say our downfall because it is OURS – we are in this together.
It seems, especially in Western society, that people are trying to master the race alone. Whatever race it is we are running – a country, a company, a household, a job, a running race, a life, the pervasive “race to the finish” in literally any circumstance – we seem to have gone far off course. The human race isn’t about racing, or even about race; the human race is about humanity.
There is such a dogged fixation on the “race” part, and I see this manifest in 2 ways. Firstly, “race” the verb is incredibly prevalent in our society – a desperate climbing, pushing harder, striving, going faster. We call it the “rat race”, distinctly different from the “human race”, for a reason, poignantly reminding us that we’re giving up our humanity and behaving like primitive, simple creatures and underutilising our capacity. Secondly, “race” the noun is a word with challenging but colourful connotations, where groups of similar people with similar skin colour or culture stick together in clumps, which starts to get complicated when people start looking out at other clumps of people with our limited perspective and beady eyes, picking out which of the differences between groups is enough to dislike.
What gets forgotten in the racing, in the clumping, in the grouping, the division and disliking is the place we all begin and where we all end: The HUMAN race. The world is neglecting the HUMAN – we are neglecting each other and thus ourselves.
How on earth has it happened that with such a focus on race, and the sad prevalence of racism and deep hatred in some for other races, we have forgotten that WE ARE FROM THE SAME RACE! The original race – the human race. Focusing on that, while we should explore and try to understand other cultures, we should do so to try find the similarities and to learn from the differences. I reckon that what unifies us is our foundation, our fortress, our stronghold and the place from which we can make a real difference and where we can return to when we need to remember who we are and that our future is intrinsically linked. The differences between us are where we find our lessons, the challenges, the potential, the colour, the contrast, the character, the magic and the indescribable beauty.
Not knowing where else to go, I return home to Africa and the concept of Ubuntu. This is a concept of the essence of humanity and of unity, described by Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu to mean “a person is a person through other persons”. How has the world neglected to see – I am a human but WE are the human race. All of our races and faces form part of the same human race. How we progress (or regress) will determine our collective success and victory. There is no red ribbon to run across, we don’t need to step on each other, there is no gold, silver and bronze metal, no first second or third place. If, philosophically, one of us reaches the end of the human race, that means that we all have reached the end of the human race. Instead of racing around focusing on division, we need to slow down, unite, and see what we are doing to the world and each other – whatever we do to the earth and another human being, we do to ourselves. It is not me versus you, and despite what the laws of war say, it is not one group of people against another. It breaks my heart to see that people remember hatred, pain and suffering from decades and decades gone by and pass down the toxic messages for generations, but it takes a split second for someone to forget their humanity.
We are in this together. We must forget ourselves and remember our humanity. In remembering our humanity, we see ourselves.