Rebecca Walker
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FEMINIST ACTIVIST AND AUTHOR REBECCA WALKER
By Caroline Russell, O'Shea '07, October 20, 2006

     
 

Lecture titled "Today Is the Tomorrow That Was Promised to You Yesterday"

Activist and writer Rebecca Walker, founder of the Third Wave Foundation and author of such books as To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism, and Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self, spoke at Hamilton on Thursday, Oct. 19 in the Events Barn. Walker called her talk a "brief moment of contemplation" on the need for liberation, self-determination, and openness for all human beings.

Walker began by thanking the organizers of the event and all those in attendance, saying that in chaotic, hectic, frightening times such as these, it is more important than ever for people to come together and deal with the issues that will shape our future. She said that her lecture, titled "Today Is the Tomorrow That Was Promised to You Yesterday," was aimed at understanding the moment we live in today, how we got here, and the profound changes that are necessary to create a more livable future. Her goal, she said, is to point to things that are bubbling beneath the surface of America today, in order to promote growth, introspection and evolution.

"The chaotic circumstances we find ourselves in today, disguised as forward momentum, are tinged with the potential for comprehensive annihilation," Walker said. We can see the danger and strife present in our world every day on the news, in coverage of nuclear weapon tests, global warming, the AIDS epidemic, and any other number of chaotic events. At the same time, we are told that if we simply continue on the same path and go along with it, everything will work out. Walker said that every generation, in fact, has been told the same thing - that following the plan of their day would make everything okay in the future. However, we need only look at a few examples of historical domestic and global struggles to see the failure of these utopic promises of inevitable progress, she said.

Why have society's strategies in the past decades, imbued as they were with the dreams and promises of justice, equality, and freedom, been unable to manifest the results we say we want? Walker posed this question to the audience, getting a number of responses from Hamilton students in attendance. She said that her own answer to this question is our society's emphasis on individualism. Calling it the "sacred cow of our culture," she said that we have been unwilling to look critically at individualisms centrality to our thought and action in society. Unfettered individualism, she said, is the birthplace of divisiveness, which keeps people apart and destroys society's potential for happiness, progress and peace. In our culture, we are surrounded by divisiveness as fish are surrounded by water, she remarked. Divisiveness in all parts of our lives creates a habit of judging and splitting, of accepting or discarding, of anger, hate and rage, Walker said. The most serious consequence, she said, is the constant chipping away of our most valuable resource as human beings - our ability for openness.

"Think about how rare it is to experience true openness, to experience people coming together," Walker said. Divisiveness has reached such a fever pitch today that people risk losing their credibility among a certain group when they even display openness to opposing views or groups. There is a huge magnitude of effort required for each individual to clarify what openness would mean in their own life and their own heart, she said. However, Walker said she believes that the true measure of a human being must not be in the grades they get or the work they do, but rather in how open they are to the beliefs and practices of others, and how adaptable they can be in the name of lasting peace.

Openness must be the integrated theme of our personal and political inquiries, Walker said. The historical examples of the women's movement and civil rights movement give us some idea of how a movement could be based on openness and coming together to share points of view. If movements continue to be divisive and antagonistic, we will continue to destroy each other ratherthan making progress towards lasting peace and happiness, she said. The emphasis must be on shifting to a paradigm of non-dualism in our thought and in our perception of others. Human beings should understand that we are not completely discrete entities in opposition to each other, but rather that we are all part of the greater whole. She called this idea "transindividualism," saying that it is not so much about an activism model of outside action, but more about the deep, inner work of the mind.

In response to a question from a student about whether she believed that political and activist action should be completely disregarded in favor of personal transformation, Walker replied that she favored a multi-pronged approach. We must be careful about our investments into a political system that has not shown an ability to create lasting, transformative change in
the past. The growth of openness in individuals must be pursued in addition to more traditional modes of activism, and the ideals of openness must be integrated into social movements.

Rebecca Walker's lecture was sponsored by the Hamilton College Womyn's Center, which is an inclusive, student-run organization led by women that seeks to raise awareness of women's issues throughout the Hamilton community. Specifically, the Womyn's Center is dedicated to examining the intersections of gender, race, sexual orientation, class, and other characteristics as they are incorporated into societal structures that maintain hierarchical injustices. The event was also supported by the Kirkland Endowment, Rainbow Alliance, Black Student Union, Hillel, and the Department of Women's Studies.


 

 

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