The “White” and “Colored” Myth

The unconscious “Communities of Faith” of conflict partners: Shared presuppositions in conflict positions

German Version

My last online seminar “Elements – NLP and Process Utilities” dealt with the topic of “shared presuppositions in conflicts”, which I like to refer to in seminars on mediation and conflict management as the “unconscious faith community of conflict partners”.

I developed the procedure for dealing with shared presuppositions in conflict positions when I realized that this is the most important element in Robert Dilts’ “Einstein Format”: without being able to find and name the shared presuppositions in conflict positions, one can forget this wonderful format of Robert.

Presuppositions of a statement are sentences that must be true or meaningful if the whole statement is considered true or meaningful. And shared presuppositions are presuppositions that are valid for both conflict positions – if they are consciously acknowledged and the limiting beliefs underlying them are updated, it becomes apparent that the positions are less contrary than they initially appeared.

The ability to deal with shared presuppositions, i.e. with the “unconscious faith community” of conflict partners, is important both when working with conflicts inside a person and with such in-between persons and groups of persons.

The idea to deal with the topic of shared presuppositions in the online seminar came to me during the short exchange on the topic “White and Colored” on my Facebook and LinkedIn page. There I said,

An analogy to the erroneous use of language shared by “white” and “black” is: “White” relates to “Colored” as “human” relates to “animal”! But: All humans are “colored”. Humans are pink-pink (“pig-colored”), yellow, red, light brown, dark brown, hazel and black-brown… Another analogy would be to say that “white” relates to “colored” in the same way that “gods” relate to “humans”.

I added,

… white is somehow “meta” to colored … so in this logic no person from the class of “colored” people can ever succeed in being a “white” person … So this is a deeply routed racist thinking, which is shared by “whites” and by “blacks”. For the “blacks”, being called “colored” has made things even worse.

Today I would add,

In the same way the phrase “BPoC – Black and People of Color” makes the situation even worse than it already is by the fact that all those involved in this great conflict consistently speak of „Whites” and „Blacks and Colored” or even of „Whites” and „Blacks, Indigenous and People of Color“ (BIPoC).

This conflict is so interesting for the consideration of shared presuppositions in conflict positions because it affects all people, at least all those who assume or believe of themselves that they belong either to the “whites” or to the “black” or “coloured” people. They are all part of an unconscious community of faith, i.e. a community that unconsciously believes something that keeps its conflict stable and which, if it were updated, could resolve that conflict.

In the online seminar we demonstrated and practiced the procedure using the example of an internal conflict of a participant with the positions “Buying a house is a risk” and “Not buying a house is a risk”. It consists of working out all presuppositions of the two – as in text exegesis – positions that are present in writing (a chat window in the online seminar is excellently suited for this purpose) and offering them to the person concerned as possible updates of a belief system that both souls unconsciously share in their breast. (If the conflict partners had been two people or groups of people, the respective presupposition would have been suggested to both of them for an update of their conflict positions).

In this exercise, we offered the participant concerned shared presuppositions such as “A house can be bought” and “A house can be bought by one, two or more people” (the presuppositions can be taken from the grammar of the term “buying a house”), “There are different types of risk” (double use of a word) and “Buying or not buying a house may involve a risk for the buyer(s) and/or for other people and/or situations” (Using the meta-model of language to explicate the implication, d. i.e. presupposition).

The charm of this procedure in the case of an internal conflict is that the therapist/coach does not know in advance which of the presuppositions to be offered to his client would be successful, measured by the quality criteria “duration and depth of the trance and frequency of going in and out of the trance” when thinking about the offered presupposition, “reconciliation physiology” and “increase in symmetry when reorienting”. In our case, “Future developments play a role in buying a house” (grammar of the word “risk”) were successful: Measured against these quality criteria (originally for “content reframing”), they could be well used by the participant for inner work on her conflict topic that was not communicated externally in terms of content.

At the end of this 90-minute seminar, we once again dealt with the question of which is probably the most important of the shared pre-suppositions in conflicts between “whites” and “non-whites”, or between (expelled and rejected) racists and their critics: It is the mistaken belief that there are “whites “, i.e. people with white skin colour. The update is: There are only colored people: pink (pig-colored), yellow, red, light brown, dark brown, hazel and black-brown…

The seminar ended with a nice mental exercise. After we had heard the story of a (white) woman who had been on holiday in Africa with her (white) husband and felt looked at by the black/coloured waiters and waitresses in a not so benevolently way. We learned that in this situation she said inwardly “to the blacks”, “Why are you looking at me like that? It’s not my fault that I’m white!“ That’s just what she is not at all. She is not white in the same sense that the “black” participants of “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations are black – although they also believe that are.

We imagined that this in this case inner verbal interaction would be part of an escalating verbal interaction in the mediation of a conflict between a “white” and a “black” person. We imagined that we, as a mediator, would interrupt this interaction and say: “For a moment, please look at each other… and please keep eye contact… and then say to each other while keeping eye contact: ‘All people are colored, me just like you‘…, ‘My skin is pink-colored and yours is brown-colored“ and vice versa…. And maybe then, as the mediator, we would sing the song: “I can see your true colors shining”1

The bad thing is, the mad use of language of “white” and “non-white”, whether “black” or “colored”, prevents a change in the racism that we all unconsciously share in this way. In the worst case, this – if we do not change it – black and white language use (the words “white” and “black” are not used for the colour tones of human skin, but exclusively as a symbolization of implicit evaluations: everything positive is connoted with “white” and everything negative with “black” or “colored“) erodes the energy of “white” peoples expressions of loyalty when they join a “Black Lives Matters” demo… It´s the power of the language in which we all live and which we should maintain and update regularly.

  1. In this way or this way