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What to Replace and What to Repair

Updated: Mar 30, 2023

You can replace some things. Some you cannot. Sometimes, you can follow Buckminster Fuller’s famous saying:

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something,

build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."

And sometimes you cannot.

If we were dealing with a broken window, we can replace it with a new one. That’s not the case with the legacy of white supremacy and arrogance. In fact, white supremacy depends on denying its legacy. You cannot replace that legacy; you have to repair it.

Buckminster Fuller was quite remarkable, but it seems fair to acknowledge that he belonged to a company of white men who wrote as though they were not part of a social world that owed its prosperity to the enslavement and displacement of millions.

One does need to imagine a future. We all do that. We also need to consider our location in the racial history of our social structures, and to imagine how to change those social structures so that our imagined future is possible. The future, in other words, comes to us from behind, and we cannot realize it until we turn around.

As I see it, the current course of “American Prosperity” that relies on the exploitation of labor and the depletion of the planet must be re-directed toward a sustainable future. This kind of structural change involves repairing the injuries that American Prosperity has caused. Reparation is not just about being accountable to others, but also about resetting our future possibilities. It involves a switch from a climate of injustice to a climate of justice.

I know some things cannot be repaired and must be replaced. One could see European/Americans as people who chose to replace their home country rather than repair it. I assume that many of us would rank “the freedom to leave” fairly high on any list of human rights. Still, the choice does not have to be between “love it or leave it.” We can also work to change our social climate to a climate of justice, and that will require that we replace social amnesia with social awareness.

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