Research Room - Articles and Essays on Multicultural Education, Diversity, and Social Justice
Share/Bookmark an EdChange project by Paul C. Gorski
Teachers Corner
Workshops & Training
Equity Case Studies
Awareness Activities
Equity Curriculum
Equity Awareness Quizzes
Printable Handouts
Research Room
Humane Education
Social Justice Speeches
Social Justice Songs
Social Justice Quotations
Multicultural Links
Contact Us

Receive Email Updates
Awards & Recognition
About Paul Gorski

Equity Literacy Institute
Equity Learning Institute
EdChange Consulting and Workshops on Multicultural Education, Diversity, Equity, Social Justice
SoJust Document History of Civil Rights and Social Justice
The Multiple Futures of Racism
Beyond the Myth of Race through a New Paradigm for Resolution in the Third Millennium

By Caleb Rosado, Ph.D.*


On the eve of the third millennium racism is still one of the most pervasive social evils in the world. Part of the problem is that attempts to eliminate racism have focused on surface differences of race, color, and biological supremacy. Such attempts do not get to the root of the problem, the deep-level value and belief systems that undergird racism. This paper introduces the Theory of Levels of Existence of the late Clare W. Graves, supplemented with the concept of "memes" from Richard Dawkins. Together these two perspectives comprise the bio-psycho-social-spiritual framework of Spiral Dynamics(r) that provides the best approach for unlearning and eliminating racism. The research shows that there is no single future of racism, but multiple futures depending on the memetic level of its expression. Thus, racism will fluctuate between worsened conditions to ones where it will be non-existent, depending at which level of existence people are operating. The paper closes with an explanation of MeshWORKS as a solutions process and ways of reducing racism for both individuals and institutions.

As the dawn of the 21st century nears, racism, one of the most important and persistent social evils throughout the world today, is on the rise in manifold ways. Whether we are talking about ethnic cleansings, tribal conflicts, warring factions, group hatred, subtle discrimination, or retraction of equity laws under the guise of fairness, the underlying result is the same. One group, threatened by a perceived loss of power, exercises social, economic, political, religious, and physical muscle against the Other to retain privilege by restructuring for social advantage.

Though human exploitation as a result of cultural, political, economic, and religious differences has been with us since the dawn of time, racial/biological differences as a justification for human oppression is of more recent history. Beginning in the 16th century, as a product of European expansionism throughout the globe, racism-the exploitation of human beings on the basis of biocultural differences-is perhaps the most persistent, socially impacting, and psychologically dehumanizing legacy of the Columbian Exchange. Now five hundred years later, on the eve of the third millennium, racism-like a deadly virus-not only lingers but mutates and replicates itself crippling the social body of human society. How can we best understand this bio-psycho-social-spiritual phenomenon and its continued persistence like a pernicious weed that eludes all forms eradication? Any efforts to create inclusive, sustainable futures in the years ahead will have to seriously address this social cancer as a prerequisite for creating caring communities.

Factors in the Persistence of Racism

The persistence of the bio-psycho-social-spiritual phenomenon of racism can best be understood by unpacking these four aspects of racism-its bio-psycho-social-spiritual dimensions. In these four dimensions reside the root causes of it emergence and persistence, as well as it elimination.

Racism emerged in the 16th century as a result of European expansionism and has persisted to the present as a socially constructed system of values to justify the evil of human exploitation for socioeconomic advantage. Racism is the outward manifestation of an inward system of values deliberately designed to structure privilege by means of an objective, differential, and unequal treatment of people, for the purpose of social advantage over scarce resources. This values system justifies power of position by placing a negative meaning and value on perceived or actual biological/cultural differences. The key element in understanding racism is to focus on the undergirding values and beliefs system out of which racist action emerges. This deep-level values system gives biological differences, such as skin color, texture of the hair, physical features; or cultural differences, such as language, religion, ethnicity, or accent, a negative value and meaning. This negative meaning then legitimizes treating the other as inferior to oneself or one's group. The result is an objective (visible, measurable, tangible), differential (there is an obvious difference between groups), and unequal treatment (the difference in treatment is not the same), where one groups gets consistently short-changed. The working definition for both racism and sexism is the same. Both refer to evil perpetrated against others. The only difference is that in racism color is the excuse for oppression, while in sexism it is gender. But racism has nothing to do with color, just like sexism has nothing to do with sex or gender. Biological differences are not the problem; they are merely the excuse for oppression.

No person of color has ever suffered discrimination because of the color of their skin. If color were the problem then the solution would be a change of skin color, an action which persons of color have often attempted, because of the wrong assumption that the problem was the color of their skin. Yet, the problem is not skin color, but value systems that perpetrate evil against others and then justify that evil by focusing on outward differences. These outward differences, such as color, gender, language, religion, are just that, differences. In and of themselves they contain no positive or negative value; there are merely biological or cultural necessities. Thus, there is nothing wrong with the color black, brown or yellow. It is not skin color that forms the basis for discrimination, but the negative meaning and value given to the color of skin, which meaning is not inherent in the color nor the skin but in the culture.1 Roger Bastide (1967) grasped this very well when he declared: "Color is neutral; it is the mind that gives it meaning." Neither are women discriminated against because of their gender. If gender were the problem then the solution would also be to have a sex-change operation. But the problem is not gender but value systems which benefit men at the expense of women and then justify the evil perpetrated by putting the blame on gender. Women are discriminated against because of the negative meaning and value given to their gender. It is not our gender or skin color that we have to change, but value systems of oppression that benefit some groups at the expense of others. This whole process is what William Ryan (1976) calls "blaming the victim" It is an ideological process that justifies inequality by finding defects in the victims of inequality. The logical outcome of analyzing social problems in terms of the deficiencies of the victim is a simple formula for action: Change the victim, rather than one's value system.

William I. Thomas and Dorothy Swaine Thomas (1928), who are numbered among the founders of American sociology, enunciated a most important concept, "the definition of the situation"-the Thomas Theorem-also known as "the self-fulfilling prophecy." "If a situation is defined as real, it is real in its consequences." Thus how one defines a situation depends on how one perceives it. For example, the congestion in an elevator or crowded subway is called "intimacy" at a party. This theorem has far-reaching implications for an understanding of race relations as well as the role of women in society, for "all social reality is defined, [and] power comes from the ability to control the definition of situations" (Collins 1988). For example, if women are regarded as emotional, concerned only with domestic matters and immediate concerns, and incapable of achieving leadership positions because of a lack of leadership skills, the consequence is that they are not given adequate occupational opportunities. They end up being relegated to secondary roles, thereby making true in reality the definition enunciated. It also holds true in race relations. If African Americans and Latinos are defined as lazy, incompetent, unintelligent, culturally deficient and lacking leadership skills, they too will be relegated to a secondary status in society and not given the opportunity to advance, resulting in consequences which are real thereby justifying the original definition of their situation.

The meaning that people therefore give to their reality, whether or not true, causes people to behave in a manner that makes the original meaning actually come true. Thus, a protrusion in my coat pocket, perceived to be a gun, enables me to order another person around just as effectively as if I really had a gun, provided of course that they believe I do.

What this means is that as human beings we have the capacity of giving meaning to the world around us. This meaning emerges from our deep-level values that shape who we are. None of us sees the world exactly as it is, for the reality that we see is literally an invention of the brain, actively constructed from a constantly changing flood of information we take into our minds, which is then interpreted through our experiences (Scientific American 1992). Edward T. Hall (1969) and James J. Gibson (1950) suggest that the fact that two people looking at the same object do not see the same thing may be a result of two different types of vision-the "visual field" in the eye and the "visual world" in the brain. The visual field is made up of the light, colors and figures recorded by the retina. The visual world is made up of all the sociocultural experiences stored in the mind that define the image in the retina, giving it an interpretive meaning called "perception." Though the image is in the eye, perception is in the mind. What people actually "see" is not the reality of the image, but the reality of the perception. And this perception, the "visual world," derives from our worldviews, our operational paradigm, our system of beliefs and values that shape our world and enable us to make sense of the reality we experience. American writer Anais Nin (1903-1977) captured this operational system of values beneath the surface when she said: "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." Thus, perception is reality! And however one defines the world, that is how it will be.

Take a piece of cloth such as a handkerchief. What is the function of a handkerchief? To wipe off sweat, clean our hands, wipe our mouth, blow our nose-all menial tasks. Is the meaning of these functions in the cloth? No. It is in culture, in our human society, in the social values and ways we have been socialized to view and regard a handkerchief. You can take the same piece of cloth and make it into a shirt or a blouse and give it the functions of both protecting and celebrating our bodies. You can also take this same piece of cloth, add some red and blue stripes, and some white stars, and turn it into a flag, and it becomes the signature of a people, symbolizing their group identity and nationality, and emoting patriotism. And many are willing to die and kill for it, and others to stand at attention with tears in their eyes in a moment of triumph, like the many athletes at the Olympic Games as their national flag is raised in celebrated honor of their world-record victories. Consider Karch Kiraly, Captain of the United States Olympic volleyball team, who won the gold medal in both the 1984 and 1988 games, and who was been designated "The World's Best Volleyball Player" by the International Volleyball Federation. After the team won the gold medal at the 1984 games in Los Angeles, Kiraly declared: "I don't remember much about the last match for the gold in Los Angeles, and I don't remember the medal being put around my neck, but I'll never forget singing-screaming-the anthem as our flag went up just a little higher than the others" (Jensen 1988). Such display of emotion, over what? Over a mere piece of colored cloth! Not just any cloth, however, but a cloth imbued with meaning, values, significance, and national symbolism, and in which emotions are invested that bring spin-tingling sensations in moments of victory and patriotism, or outrage when desecrated. The flag, like the handkerchief, and skin color, and gender, possesses no inherent meaning in itself, but such as the mind/brain gives it. It is here, therefore, where one needs to focus to begin eliminating racism.

What this means is that there is no biological basis for race. Franz Boas, the father of anthropology in America and professor at Columbia University, was the first to expose this myth (Wolpoff and Caspari 1997). This is the first aspect of racism, the bio factor. Biologically there are no distinct human racial categories or boundaries, only a continuum of genetic variation (Marshall 1998). If this is so, why is this myth still being propagated, even more so now through efforts to understand the meaning of "Whiteness"? Why do we keep categorizing people as human types on the basis of biological, surface (skin) differences? Ashley Montague gives us one possible reason, that as long as racism and prejudice continue to satisfy structural and psychological needs, these superficial differences will always be exaggerated and favored to preserve privilege, power, and position (Montague 1965).

The problem is that biology exacerbates racism by providing physical markers, which separate us first in our minds. Out of these mental constructs come the social constructs that then separate us in society. The myth of the biological supremacy of one group over another group, like all myths, is created, as Montague reminds us, "to fill psychological needs." This is the second aspect, the psycho factor. Rodney Stark (1996) reminds us that, "although race is a biological concept, racial differences are important for intergroup relations solely to the extent that people attach cultural meaning to them....Biological differences may be unchangeable, but by themselves they are not important. It is what we believe about these differences that matters. And what we believe can change. The notion of a society that is color-blind simply refers to a society in which no cultural meanings are attached to human biological variations." This is the third aspect, the social factor.

This being the case, the bio-psycho-social undergirding of racism will persist in human hearts as long as it satisfies the felt needs of people-such as the need to feel superior to others. "No amount of statistical data or hard scientific evidence suggesting a sociological rather than a genetic origin of differences will change a 'true believer's' mythic ways" (Montague). The same goes with the spiritual dimension, the fourth factor. In order to justify such evil use of power, people will appeal to those moral systems which give them a sense of meaning, rightness, and ultimate value in life, their ideological belief systems, which serve as the highest authority in their lives, the moral basis of their existence. Therefore, if people use religion to explain their social reality, then a religious ideology with its sacred texts will be used to justify this exploitation, thereby transforming God into the biggest exploiter and racist, even when this may be done unconsciously. And if God is against you, then who can be for you? If, however, a scientific perspective dominates a person's worldview, then a scientific ideology will be used to show why some groups of people are inferior to others. Richard J. Herrnstein's and Charles Murray's book, The Bell Curve (1994), is an excellent example of this approach. In either case, the results are the same-the exploitation of one group by another group for the purpose of social advantage. Thus, as long as an attitude, action, or belief satisfies our needs, we will not change. Only when people can be shown that a continued attitude, action, and belief will prove to be destructive to their well-being, will they be willing to consider an alternate course of action. But the issues are deeper, and herein lies the key to the future of racism and its elimination, understanding people's underlying value systems-their operational bio-psycho-social-spiritual framework-and how it shapes their world.

Spiral Dynamics(r)-A New Theoretical Perspective for Understanding Racism

The emotional "race" issue needs to be dealt with in a positive and proactive fashion. It is human nature to try and distinguish one person from another. The questions arise: is such action for-better or for-worse? good or bad? invidious or constructive? fair or unfair? accurate or not? PRE-judicial or merely a sorting? There is abundant evidence that race (viewed as a biological determinant rooted in genetic markers and their products) is one lousy sorter. It just isn't very predictive at all. But it's easy to see and thus a great tool for small minds that don't care to delve further than the dermal layer or bone structure. Nonetheless, with other things like opportunity and information being equal, the statistics simply don't stack up. Now, that isn't to say that cultural artifacts which surround members of a "racial" (or ethnic) category in a particular context don't matter-they obviously do. They're just not hard-wired into the DNA. This is where the "majority" and "minority" issues become important: who sets the rules for the dominant culture? who gets to be the judge? who's scorecard applies? what determines a "win?" who exploits whom? (Cowan 1998).

The point is that issues about "race" are not about "race" after all. Rather, they are the surface level expressions from major conflicts in evolutionary "value systems." Values Systems are complex coping systems-decision making processes and ways of thinking-that emerge in response to problems of existence. There are 6 billion people in the world today, and though we all come from some 100,000 genes-all of us-we share only a few basic Value Systems. Spiral Dynamics(r), the framework for understanding Value Systems, and particularly its MeshWORKS approach, provides a rather nice way to understand human differences without resorting to the invalid categories of race. It gives a language of difference that transcends those superficial categories (and characteristics) and forces the user to look beneath the surface to the deeper thinking systems within. Jungian models and other assessments can do the same sort of thing, but Spiral Dynamics(r), based on the seminal research of the late Dr. Clare W. Graves, emeritus psychologist at Union College in New York, suggests both more data points along the spectrum of difference and a trajectory of change. It can serve as common ground for widely diverse people to open dialogue. Furthermore, it demands that one look at both the neurology inside (the MindWARE) and the context outside-the bio-psycho-social-spiritual milieu.

For example, two members of the same race can sense the world in profoundly different ways with different value systems, just like two members of different racial heritages can perceive exactly the same reality and share the same values. How one has experienced living because of one's race matters, but it doesn't guarantee a thing. When one breaks through the colors of skin one sees a different set of colors-i.e., the thinking about "the real world" and decisions systems for acting accordingly (Cowan 1998). Spiral Dynamics(r) moves beyond racial and ethnic stereotypes, which are the fossils of human activity in the past and which will have no role to play in the new millennium, to explore deep-level Value Systems (Linscott 1998). Only human values count, as these are expressed at the various levels of human development. These are core ways of thinking, believing, and seeing the world and acting toward the same, that lie beneath issues of race, class, gender, and privilege.

Thus, racism is not a problem, it is a symptom of a problem. Prejudice, discrimination, concerns for diversity are not social problems; they are social symptoms of a larger problem. What is the problem? It is emergent Value Systems that evolve in response to life conditions. These Value Systems, in turn, serve as social "magnets" that attract or repel beliefs, behaviors, and bureaucracies-the cultural "artifacts"-that give surge, shape, and substance to racism, aligning it with congruent lifestyles, or rejecting it if incongruent. "They determine how people think rather than what they value" (Beck 1998a). They are the "invisible forces" underneath the emergence of racism which fail to recognize the variance of the human condition, resulting in an insensitivity to human needs.

The problem with the usual approaches to resolve racial, ethnic conflict, is that they focus on the surface container, the biological hardware (race, skin color), rather than on the contents of the container, the cultural software (the operating, deep-level value systems within people-how people think and act in terms of the world they are in). The result is a failure to recognize that racism functions on two dimensions-Horizontal and Vertical. To comprehend these two dimensions one first needs to grasp Spiral Dynamics(r). Spiral Dynamics(r) is a bio-psycho-social-spiritual framework for understanding human development and human systems. It unveils the hidden codes and dynamic, spiral forces that shape human nature, create global diversities, and drive social change. Developed by Don E. Beck and Christopher C. Cowan of the National Values Center, Inc. in Texas, from two converging streams of thought-primarily, Clare W. Graves' Value Systems theory of 'levels of human existence' and, secondarily, biologist Richard Dawkins' concept of 'memes'-Spiral Dynamics(r) explores the new science of memetics, the study of ideas and their transmission.

Memes are cultural units of information that self-replicate by means of thought-contagion, using the human mind as a host, and attach themselves to individuals, organizations, entire cultures, and societies. Memes replicate themselves everywhere: via the Internet, in discussions by the water cooler in the office, at Taco Bell, at a church picnic, or in conversations at 40,000 feet on an international flight. They culturally impact the body politic, just like genes, the code carriers of DNA, biologically impact the body physical. Spiral Dynamics(r) shifts the focus from the what of human behavior, the surface issues, beliefs, actions, artifacts, and values-the memes-that fragment or unify human groups, to the why and how of such behavior-the vMEMEs-the core Value Systems awakened by changing life conditions and manifested as a dynamic spiral of levels of human existence. Memes operate on two levels, horizontally and vertically. The Horizontal dimension is the surface level of human relations, the area where our differences-color, gender, status, language, physical features, culture, values, and national origin-conflict. To focus on these surface differences, the what-the container-is to miss the larger picture, the Vertical dimension, the why and how of human action-the contents. This is the area of Belief Systems-the core values, conceptual schemes, worldviews, and frameworks for beliefs and behaviors, from which emerge the surface differences. Ninety-five percent of all diversity training, workshops for unlearning racism, conflict resolution, motivational training, law enforcement, education, business management, and social policy planning focus on these surface differences, the Horizontal dimension. Yet our struggle is not with human types, but with deep-level human Value Systems. These deep-level vMEMEs or belief systems are like migrating, bio-psycho-social-spiritual tectonic plates, that on colliding, release energy that reverberates to the surface in conflict over group differences and competition for scarce resources.

Spiral Dynamics(r) emerges from the seminal, original research of Dr. Clare W. Graves (late emeritus professor of psychology at Union College in NY). A contemporary and close friend of Abraham Maslow, Graves disagreed with Maslow's (1954) hierarchy as being too limited. The same goes with the stages of development of Erik Erikson (1950), Lawrence Kohlberg (1984), Carl Rogers (1951), Jane Loevinger (1976), James Fowler (1995), and Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (1990). Graves saw their understanding of human development as limited and closed. Whether seeing human nature as going through 4, 5, 6, or 8 stages, the problem with all of these theorists is that they all speak of a "final stage" or "level" of human development. This is where Graves differed. For him human development was a open-ended process, with no end in sight but capable of continual growth. Karl Jaspers in his General Psychopathology (1923) said even as much: "The human being is an open possibility, incomplete and incompletable. Hence it is always more and other than what he has brought to realisation in himself." What is interesting about this quote is that it is cited by Csikszentmihalyi in his book, The Evolving Self (1993), where in the same page he discusses his four levels, and declares the fourth level to be the "the final level." Realizing that the various psychological theories of human development differed and did not, to his satisfaction, totally explain all of human reality, Clare Graves in 1952 launched into a 30-year research career seeking answer to one question: "What are the conceptions of psychological health extant in the minds of biologically mature human beings?" In other words, "What does the biologically mature adult human being look like?" Graves sought to get to the mind of the matter and explore why people are different, why some change but others don't, and how better to navigate through the emerging and often chaotic versions of human existence. After thousands of interviews worldwide, Graves developed a theory which he laboriously called: "The Emergent, Cyclical, Double-Helix Model of Adult Biopsychosocial Systems Development." He later modified the name as "The Theory of Levels of Human Existence." Graves summarized his theory in this manner: "Briefly, what I am proposing is that the psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding, emergent, oscillating spiraling process marked by progressive subordination of older, lower-order behavior systems to newer, higher-order systems as man's existential problems change" (Beck and Cowan 1996).

Graves' theory can be summarized in the following four key points:

  1. Human nature is not static, nor is it finite. Human nature changes as the conditions of existence change, thus forging new systems. Yet, the older systems stay with us.
  2. When a new system or level is activated, we change our psychology and rules for living to adapt to those new conditions.
  3. We live in a potentially open system of values with an infinite number of modes of living available to us. There is no final state to which we must all aspire. [Here is where Graves differed with Maslow and most other psychologists. Maslow, before his death, told Graves that he (Graves) was correct and he (Maslow) was wrong in thinking of human development as a closed state.]
  4. An individual, a company, or an entire society can respond positively only to those managerial principles, motivational appeals, educational formulas, and legal or ethical codes that are appropriate to the current level of human existence" (Beck and Cowan 1996). To which Beck and Cowan add: "A Spiral vortex best depicts this emergence of human systems as they evolve through levels of increasing complexity. Each upward turn of the spiral marks the awakening of a more elaborated version on top of what already exists. The human Spiral, then, consists of a coiled string of value systems, worldviews, and mindsets, each the product of its times and conditions." In other words, new times produces new minds.

The reason why so few people have ever heard of Graves and his ideas are still not mainstream is that he published very little, he encountered resistance from colleagues defending the exclusive boxes of their separate disciplines, and, due to serious health problem, he died just before releasing his major work, a book he was going to title: "Levels of Human Existence." The heart of the theory was published in The Futurist, April 1974, in an article titled: "Human Nature Prepares for a Momentous Leap." Two of his students, Don E. Beck and Chris C. Cowan, have published the essence of his research and theory in their book, Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change, (1996). Graves died in 1986, and his theory is now called "Spiral Dynamics(r)", a simpler and more descriptive term. Since Graves' death Beck and Cowan came across Richard Dawkins' concept of "memes" in his book, The Selfish Gene (1976) and discovered how much it related to Graves' essential ideas, and have incorporated the term into Graves Value Systems theory. In the process, however, they coined a new term vMEMEs, for value-memes, and capitalized it to distinguish it from regular "memes" to illustrate Graves' understanding of the deep-level operational values and core intelligences out of which the surface memes or ideas, beliefs, actions, and artifacts emerge.

Let me explain how Graves' "values" and Dawkins' "memes" are similar and yet different. Graves spoke and wrote of surface values, what people, groups, and societies usually quibble over: geopolitics, beliefs, education, crime, justice, religion, norms, racism, business practices, etc. This is similar to what Dawkins called memes, self-replicating ideas or cultural DNA, beliefs, and actions that like viruses infect the human mind and are transmitted from mind to mind. Albeit in a good way, though sometimes memes, like recessive genes, can be lethal. Throughout human history memes have not only killed genes, but other memes as well. Case in point is Hitler's meme of the Germans as "master race." Howard Bloom, in his book, The Lucifer Principle (1995), examines the lethal aspect of memes throughout history. But Graves contribution went further. What he discovered was that beneath these surface values or memes [Graves never used the term "meme"], human behavior tends oscillate between two forms of action-focus on the individual and focus on the group; independence and interdependence. He called it, "express-self" belief/behavior and "sacrifice-self" belief/behavior. Other psychologists and scholars have come to the same conclusion. Csikszentmihalyi calls it "differentiation" and "integration" (1990); Val Geist calls it, "dispersal modes" and "maintenance modes" (1998); and Howard Bloom calls it "diversity generators" and "conformity enforcers" (1998). Where Graves differs from all previous scholars is that his research showed that people move within an open system from one mode to the next, from express-self to sacrifice-self, from a focus on "me" to one focused on "we," in what Csikszentmihalyi calls "a dialectical motion....between turning attention inward and then outward, between valuing the self and then the larger community. It is not a circular motion that returns to where one started, but rather, it resembles an ascending spiral" (1993). It is an ever increasing and widening spiral of development as people move through the various levels of bio-psycho-social-spiritual complexity. Every time a people move from one level to the next, they undergo a major paradigm shift (Kuhn 1970), a different window through which to look out on the world, a transformation of their basic Value System.

The model not only depicts the evolvement of individuals, but also of institutions, nations, and even the human race. People and nations, however, do not automatically move up the spiral from one level to the next. Often people and societies can remain at one level of development their whole existence. Graves called these levels "deep-level Value Systems." Beck and Cowan regard these as the Big MEMEs or "vMEMEs", the little "v" standing for "values" or "value-MEMEs" (pronounced "vee-meems"). These are conceptual frameworks, paradigms, worldviews, core intelligences, deep-level decision systems or mindsets from which emerge the surface memes or little memes, which Dawkins, Csikszentmihalyi, Bloom (1995), Brodie (1995), Lynch (1996), Wilson (1998), and others talk about when discussing memetics. Howard Bloom, for example, talks about both types of memes without distinguishing between the two. Graves, in his article in The Futurist, said that these vMEMEs or Value Systems "alternate between focus upon the external world, and attempts to change it, and focus upon the inner world, and attempts to come to peace with it, with the means to each end changing in each alternately prognostic system. Thus, man tends, normally, to change his psychology as the conditions of his existence change. Each successive stage, or level of existence, is a state through which people pass on the way to other states of equilibrium. When a person is centralized in one state of existence [read "vMEME"], he has a total psychology which is particular to that state. His feelings, motivations, ethics and values, biochemistry, degree of neurological activation, learning systems, belief systems, conception of mental health, ideas as to what mental illness is and how it should be treated, preference for and conceptions of management, education, economic and political theory and practice, etc. [read "memes"], are all appropriate to that state" (Graves 1974).

Graves research showed that humans have evolved thus far through six stages or levels of bio-psycho-social-spiritual development, that are like six themes or movements in a symphony, beginning with its simplest expression and working through ever-increasing levels of complexity. In other words, as the Life Conditions (LCs) or existential problems change, humans alter their Mental Capabilities (MCs) or neurological system in the brain to adjust to these changing conditions. Graves used letters of the alphabet for each stage, dividing the alphabet in half, the first half for LCs and the second half for MCs. Beck and Cowan discovered that using a color scheme was more useful and easier to remember. The six stages or "Subsistence levels" are:


Level 1 (A-N) BEIGE SurvivalSense "Me" Group bands together to stay alive Lives for survival
Level 2 (B-O) PURPLE KinSpirits "We" Sense of family/tribe with time-honored traditions Lives for group
Level 3 (C-P) RED PowerGods "Me" Power-action driven, egocentric, impulsive Lives for now
Level 4 (D-Q) BLUE TruthForce "We" Purposeful, absolutist, "one-right-way" Lives for later
Level 5 (E-R) ORANGE StriveDrive "Me" Entrepreneurial, materialistic, success-driven Lives for gain
Level 6 (F-S) GREEN HumanBond "We" Community, harmony, equality, relativistic Lives for harmony

As humans evolve from one level to the next, as in a spiral, their world and their thinking becomes more complex. The values of the previous level do not disappear but slip into the background, and, though present and may re-emerge if a change in Life Conditions calls them up, they are no longer the dominant vMEME. What Graves also discovered is that humankind is on the verge of a momentous leap forward, as the six stages recycle but at higher and more complex levels, what Graves called the "Being" levels. Thus far, there is evidence for human involvement in the next two levels, Level 7 (G-T)-YELLOW (FlexFlow), which is emerging, and Level 8 (H-U)-TURQUOISE (GlobalView), the highest level Graves had found among his subjects, with a 9th level CORAL waiting in the dim unknown.

These vMEMEs or 'levels of human existence' help explain human evolutionary development. Graves explained the levels and the process this way: "At each stage of human existence the adult man is off on his quest of his holy grail, the way of life he seeks by which to live. At his first level he is on a quest for automatic physiological satisfaction [AN-Beige]. At the second level he seeks a safe mode of living [BO-Purple], and this is followed, in turn, by a search for heroic status, for power and glory [CP-Red], by a search for ultimate peace [DQ-Blue], a search for material pleasure [ER-Orange], a search for affectionate relations [FS-Green], a search for respect of self [GT-Yellow], and a search for peace in an incomprehensible world [HU-Turquoise]. And, when he finds he will not find that peace, he will be off on his ninth level quest [IV-Coral]. As he sets off on each quest, he believes he will find the answer to his existence. Yet, much to his surprise and much to his dismay, he finds at every stage that the solution to existence is not the solution he has come to find. Every stage he reaches leaves him disconcerted and perplexed. It is simply that as he solves one set of human problems he finds a new set in their place. The quest he finds is never ending" (Beck and Cowan 1996). Thus, as Beck and Cowan declare: "Today's problems are yesterday's solutions."

Memes and Racism

What does all of this have to do with racism? Spiral Dynamics(r) functions in two dimensions: the Horizontal (the little memes) and the Vertical (the vMEMEs). Most group conflicts center on the horizontal dimension, be it racism, sexism, values, or lifestyle choices. To deal with such issues one-dimensionally is to take a Flatlander approach.

In his fictional little 19th century book, Flatland: A Romance in Multiple Dimensions, Edwin Abbott (1984) described a civilization that exists in only two dimensions. Flatlander's can see left and right, but have no sense of up or down. They move from side to side, front and back, but that's all. They refuse to believe that any other direction is possible. Anyone who argues for a third dimension lacks knowledge. There are a lot of Flatlander's around still. For them, diversity is a matter of rigid categories, simplistic types, and pigeon-holes based on race, sex, age, or some other easy marker. Life is a series of boxes. In Flatland, dealing with people means finding the right box and putting them into it based on the appearance of their outlines.

Let us confess that "generalizations and stereotypes are not altogether bad. Since we cannot know each human being individually, we have to start with certain assumptions. Depending on one's cultural background, these may be based on race, ethnicity, age, gender, religion, etc.-the more readily observable characteristics of people. For Flatlander's, that's where it stops. A quick analysis will be all there is-the person is catalogued and locked into a rigid box. For people not trapped in Flatland, the first overview is just that-a starting point, some initial information, impressions, and hunches. It is subject to instantaneous review and revision as we develop a more complete picture" (Ruth and Cowan 1993). But Flatlanders, unable to recognize the vertical dimension, put everybody through the same car wash, one-size-fits-all approach, paint only with broad horizontal brush strokes, and project their own motives, fears, and feelings onto others.

This is due to the failure of understanding the nature of diversity. By "diversity" is meant all the differences that people bring to an organization or group. It has two dimensions: the primary or Horizontal (mainly biological, usually visible-the little memes: age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disabilities), and the secondary or Vertical (psycho-socio-spiritual, usually invisible-the big vMEMEs: values system, worldviews, mindsets, ethics, paradigms, core intelligences). These differences have the potential of giving rise to conflicts, but if managed well can result in a synergetic unity, where the effect of all working together is greater than the sum total of all the parts working independently. The objective of Spiral Dynamics(r) is to enable people to begin "living inclusion" [see graphic]. This means that even though human beings are very diverse, living at different levels of existence, and that one size does not fit all, even among groups that from a surface perspective tend to "look alike," the focus needs to be on inclusion in order to bring about change.

Memes are the horizontal differences among human beings, such as culture, color, class, gender, religious beliefs, actions, lifestyles, sexual orientation, etc. These are the human differences where much of race relations research and diversity training focuses on. The vMEMEs are vertical differences, such as deep-level belief systems, core ways of thinking, dominant paradigms, and worldviews. Thus, an African American gang member and a White Neo-Nazi Skinhead, though on the surface they look different and may spout angry language filled with memes of hate toward each other and could end up killing each other, below the surface at the vMEME level the astute observer will notice that both groups essentially are at the same level, members of PURPLE tribes engaged in RED talk and behavior. Where does racism come in? Racism is a meme-a contagious idea-that leaps from mind to mind infecting individuals, groups, organizations, entire cultures, and societies. And, like a deadly virus, it has contaminated all areas of life. What divides us in society is not our genes, but our memes. We look different because of our genes; we think and act different because of our memes. The values and meanings that these memes possess are not inherent in the memes, but arise out of the vMEMEs, the deep, memetic, psychosocial structures on the vertical axis that divide and unify humanity. Racism manifests itself differently at each memetic level. Failure to grasp this results in a Flatlander perspective. The problem is not that we are White or Black, male or female, environmentalist or logger, First World or Third World, atheist or believer. It is the deep values within us that are at war. Since belief systems are deep decision systems in people, not types of people, they transcend race, gender, age, class, culture, and societies. Thus, a middle-class Black and a middle-class White may have more in common in terms of their values, beliefs, and socioeconomic status, than the same African American and a working class African American, whose only commonality may be their melanin.

Thus, the issue undergirding racism is not the color of people but the color in people. Racism is not about biology, but about Value Systems safeguarded by power. It is not about color; it is about Power! It can thus afflict anyone of any color, community, culture, or country, who craves power above the need to respect the Other. Lets see how this plays out at the various memetic levels (Beck 1997). Beige will not be discussed here since diversity is not an issue at Beige, for the focus is instinctual, centered on physical survival. Notice the movement back and forth between sacrifice-self and express-self as one progresses through the various levels.

Racism and Memetic Levels

PURPLE (B-O)-Tribalism-Sacrifice-Self: The concern at this level is with survival of kin, family, tribe, clan, myth, magic, spirits; preserve the bloodline and "our kind." The first allegiance is to tribal, family bond; everyone else is secondary and suspect. The stranger, the outsider is feared and not trusted. "Race" as a construct does not exist here, for the conflict tends to be inter-tribal and intra-racial. Gender and age roles are rigid and important, so also are rites of passage, rituals. The group has precedence over the individual. Examples are: urban gangs, the KKK, white supremacy groups, family rivalries, Mafia, and tribal conflict in Africa.

RED (C-P)-Turf Wars-Express-Self: Centers on warlords, power, appearances, territorial and interpersonal dominance, conquests, control of adversaries, reputation, personal glory, glitz, heroes, feats of valor. Uses polarized thinking to protect "family," "our kind," similar to PURPLE. "If you are not for me, you are against me," "me against the world." Is self-serving and self-seeking, as the self breaks free from group dominance. It is both the independence as well as empire stage of nation-building. Is often violent, brutal, and bloody in expression. The focus is less on race and more on prowess, conquests, expressions of power, and one-up-manship. Examples: intra-racial gang violence, inter-ethnic conflict, protest marches, even of a passive resistance nature, such as King's and Gandhi's.

BLUE (D-Q)-Classifications-Sacrifice-Self: Racism as a social construct to maintain segregation, division, and distinction enters here for the first time. Uses polarized thinking (us/them), rigid categories, truths, causes, classes, crusades, traditions, and absolutisms, to maintain status distinctions and separations.. Appeals to "holy books" and lawful order to justify differential, unequal treatment. Needs to create stable, dependable hierarchies with everyone in their rightful place. There are rules for proper behavior. Pageantry, flags, hymns are rallying points. Is rather conservative and seeks to keep things as they are. It takes very little provocation (such as questioning of authority, violations of traditions, expressions of doubt, stepping out of line) for BLUE to see RED. Example: Apartheid in pre-Mandela South Africa, the U.S. prior to, during, and after the Civil Rights Movement.

ORANGE (E-R)-Competition-Express-Self: Vies for limited economic niches in the social hierarchy; seeks competitive advantage and achievement, even if one has to play down one's racial/ethnic heritage. Eschews any appearance of racism and sexism, while being decidedly so. Focuses on strategies, free markets, deals, affluence, status, image, winning. Is inclusive when bottomline is at risk. Breaks with BLUE authority for ultimate personal rightness. Example: Anti-Affirmative Action laws.

GREEN (F-S)-Communitarian-Sacrifice-Self: Racism at this level is rather reactionary than outright racism, but can be exclusive and intolerant. It emanates from social action missionaries who use discrimination to enforce equality. The result is a rigid Racism of Equity-a restrictive egalitarianism based on a denial of differences. Focuses on equality, community, feelings, earthiness, consensus, and human harmony. Reverses evolutionary process through a naive cultural relativism. Reacts most strongly to RED/BLUE exploitation and ORANGE self-serving agendas. Example: the Politically Correct movement.

The Multiple Futures of Racism

Racism is an outgrowth of human selfishness in the six levels of the First Tier, but the solution must come from the Second Tier. This is what Graves' research concluded, that problems of the First Tier can only be resolved by the Value Systems of the Second Tier. Racism, thus, ceases as a viable social force in the Second Tier levels, in the "Being" stages of Yellow and Turquoise. At these levels the focus is no longer on human categories and surface distinctions. Diversity as that which separates human beings is no longer an issue. The concern rather is on the task to be carried out and on who best can do it for the common good, whether this be the integrated self (YELLOW) or the global habitat and oneness of humanity (TURQUOISE).

As mentioned earlier, Graves' research showed that the Being stages at the Second Tier are a "recycling" of the Subsistence stages of the First Tier, but at more complex levels. Yellow, thus, corresponds with Beige, but now concerned with the survival of our fragile planet not just the individual. Turquoise corresponds with Purple, but not just concerned with individual tribes or families, but with Planet Earth as a global village and earthly family. Coral corresponds to Red and so on, on up the spiral.

Because of the nature of the Second Tier vMEMEs-competence overriding differences in a global context-the solution to the social evils of racism and prejudice and other societal ills at the First Tier levels of existence can only come from the Second Tier levels. Albert Einstein came to the same conclusion. "The world that we have made as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far, creates problems that we cannot solve at the same level as they were created." First Tier levels are memes of the flesh, sources of the conflict. Second Tier levels are memes of the spirit, solutions to the conflict (Don Beck). Yet the source of the conflict cannot provide the solution. This can only come from the higher levels at the Second Tier, where the concern with function over form. Form or the diversity of human beings is still important for people at the Entering Phase of Yellow for a sense of who they are in terms of the needs of the work place, the community, the survival of humanity on this planet, and the stewardship of the earth. But in the long run it matters little, for society at this level is one "in which no negative sociocultural meanings and values are attached to human biological variations" (Stark 1996). This is because the focus is on civil transformations-outcomes, mutuality, the oneness-of-spirit of the community-rather than on exclusive agendas and civil rights. Thus, any attempts to correct for racist, exclusive interests at the first six levels only results in the emergence of other forms of intolerance and new forms of civil wars. Racism morphs, but the essential elements-exclusion whether subtle or overt-stay the same, though in a more tempered expression at the higher levels of the First Tier, at Orange and Green.

Racism will have different sociopolitical expressions in the 21st century as human Life Conditions become more complex and the Mental Capacities respond to the challenges of planetary living. In some sectors of the world (those in Purple, Red, Blue), it will increase; in other sectors (Orange and Green), it will be more subtle and alter its form, and, in some cases, lessen; and in still other sectors, those that make the momentous leap to the Second Tier, the social expression of racism will cease altogether (Yellow and Turquoise). There is therefore no single future of racism, just as there is no single memetic level at which all of humanity is located. What the future holds for racism is one of multiple futures with degrees of severity depending on the memetic level of its expression. Thus, racism will fluctuate between worsened conditions to situations where it will be non-existent, depending on people's value systems and at what level of existence they are operating.

At what point in the future will global human society evolve to the place where the Being stages are reached by sufficient numbers of humankind to begin eliminating racism and other social evils? The immediate cynical human response is "Never!," due to the hardwired nature of evil in human nature (Bloom 1995). But humanly speaking, unless there is some divine intervention as many cultures believe, the survival of the planet is not possible unless these issues are resolved. We may be well into the Third Millennium before the entire planet recycles to the first stage of the Second Tier-Yellow-focused on planetary survival and well being.

In light of this we need to stop talking about the external human hardware and start focusing on the internal human software, the operating systems within-the mental frameworks that give rise to exclusion and ideologies of supremacy. What makes this difficult is that some people make their living off the "race" issue, by playing the "race card" every chance they get, since they believe that race is the problem. Yet race is only a symptom not a problem. Thus to move these 'race entrepreneurs' away from the race issue is to take away their security blanket. People get very hostile when their motives are exposed, because the reason for the existence of their ideology has been removed. Without the "race card" they are left without a voice, because their tactic all along was not to solve the problem but to exacerbate it for monetary gain. Such people are really "race entrepreneurs"-people who make their living off race-talk with no desire whatsoever to solve the prevailing evil. They have bought into W. E. B. DuBois' famous lines: "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line." But what they fail to realize is that DuBois himself rejected this position later in life. In the Preface to the 50th anniversary edition of his best known work, The Souls of Black Folk (1961), DuBois altered his views with the realization that the real problem was not the "color-line" but the "class-line." "Today I see more clearly than yesterday that back of the problem of race and color, lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance and disease of the majority of their fellowmen." Thus, it is not the color of people, but the color in people-the Value Systems that create class divisions-that is the real problem. DuBois recognized this, but few have since.

Racism, therefore, cannot be solved by merely focusing on race, for it is a memetic problem, the social construction of Value Systems. Thus, there is a need for "role switchers," persons who will throw the switch so that the train of humanity can switch from the "race-track" to the memes or "value systems-track," so as to not be derailed in its journey toward the 21st century. The last 500 years of recorded human history have been in many ways a record of the human carnage resulting from racism. No nation has been exempt. On the eve of the Third Millennium it is time to throw the switch, because the "race-track" leads to a deadend, and too many human trains have been derailed thinking they were on the right route toward the solution of "human" relations, but were instead focused on "race" relations. Part of the problem is that we think there are many routes. But like in a maze most of them are deadends. Racism is a social maze, and far too many guides are leading people to deadends instead of to the way out. To successfully negotiate the complex maze of racism one needs a blueprint that gives one the layout of the entire maze. Spiral Dynamics(r) provides this "blueprint" in MeshWORKS, the solution process of the Yellow vMEME.

Coined by Don Beck (1998b), "MeshWORKS is a comprehensive, big picture framework and process for seeing everything before designing specific actions to deal with anything. Rather than putting different perspectives or worldviews into conflict, MeshWORKS provides a mechanism for aligning them along an evolving scaffolding. Rather than promoting ethnic, racial, class, or socioeconomic levels that stress differences, MeshWORKS offers a way of dealing with the deeper value systems that create and sustain these conflicting identities, artificial boundaries, and developmental gaps in human systems. MeshWORKS is a broad synthesis as opposed to simply being another theory, package, or set of solutions." It is the 'cover; to the jigsaw puzzle of human systems change. "It explains why what is next is next; reveals and tracks the deepest trend makers that produce surface level social patterns and behaviors; and glues interests together instead of pitting them against each other. MeshWORKS contains the formulas, ratios, strategies, and daily operating systems all calculated to deal with the complex realities in the environment." In this sense Spiral Dynamics, with its MeshWORKS approach, "differs from any other psycho-social-political framework, motivational appeal, or organizational method in that it legitimizes all of the historic gurus, theories, and programs, and 'meshes' them into appropriate settings." Let me illustrate how it works with the following graphic (see Three Modes of Effecting Change).

There are three modes for bringing about change. The first is the Bureaucratic Model that works from the top-down. Since racism is a structural response to human differences, it cannot be eliminated without first addressing institutional structures of exclusion. Affirmative action laws were originally set up to address this problem of exclusion. But Americans have a history of resisting efforts for equality, and then pronouncing them failures when they don't succeed (Cose 1997)). The elimination of racism is not possible, therefore, without the basic institutional alteration of society, because it is a culturally and structurally sanctioned reality. Change has to move beyond surface memes of differences, however, to the deep-level, culturally ingrained belief/value systems operating within human minds and structural systems. Karl Mannheim, the German sociologist, in Ideology and Utopia (1936) had this in mind when he declared: "To live consistently, in the light of Christian brotherly love, in a society which is not organized on the same principle is impossible. The individual in his personal conduct is always compelled-in so far as he does not resort to breaking up the existing social structure-to fall short of his own nobler motives."

The key factor for success in this process is to work through the primary social institutions that perpetuate the learning of racism and its corresponding behavior of exclusion: the family, the school, the church, the workplace, and government. Yet, these institutions tend to have four basic characteristics that impede change (Robertson 1987). First, institutions tend to be resistant to change. Once established institutions tend to become conservative and only change with great difficulty. Second, institutions tend to be interdependent. They tend to hold the same values, norms, and interests, and penalize the same groups. Third, institutions tend to change together. For the sake of cultural continuity, changes in one institution are usually followed by changes in the other institutions. Fourth, institutions tend to be the sight of major social problems. Because institutions exist to meet basic social needs, failure to meet people's needs results in the emergence of conflict. Also, the need to maintain the status quo further exacerbates conflict.

These institutions must undergo a dramatic transformation for racism to be eliminated. Yet, fundamental change as opposed to cosmetic change has not taken place in America in terms of diversity. This is because, as opposed to Einstein's dictum, we think that racism can be solved at the levels it was created. Yet, the very institutions that established the prevailing doctrines and practices justifying unequal treatment are only willing to undergo superficial reforms rather than radical transformation. The result is first-order change (a redoubling of efforts with more of the same at the horizontal level), rather than second-order change (systemic vertical change beginning with an organization's operative value systems). A moral appeal by itself will not work, for the societal forces pushing for exclusion are too strong. Thus, the need for legislative and economic pressures to ensure that change and inclusion will become a living reality. But even this, by itself, is still first-order, surface change.

A second mode is the Grassroots Model, from the bottom-up. This was best illustrated by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the Women's Movement, challenging systems at the ground level. The purpose here was to create systems of greater equality that had as a basis Gordon Allport's Theory of Racial Contact (1958). Allport suggests that contact between groups will decrease prejudice when it occurs under conditions of equal status and cooperation. What Allport is saying is that the problems of intergroup conflict (prejudice, discrimination, racism or sexism) in the world today are the result of status inequality (differences in wealth, power and prestige), coupled with socioeconomic competition. The solution to these problems lies in first eliminating status inequality and socioeconomic competition at the grassroots level. It is then, and only then, that prejudice, discrimination, racism and sexism will cease. Efforts to overcome prejudice before overcoming status inequality are bound to fail, thus the need for eliminating inequality. Studies do show that when groups come together on an equal basis, in a non-competitive environment, prejudice is definitely reduced (Pate 1981). This is the goal of the Grassroots Model, to alter systems for greater equity.

The problem with both of these models is that they are based on a vertical orientation, with one group up and the other down, in a struggle for power. Such an orientation does not always get to the heart of the problem. Another factor is that both are based on external circumstances, which again is nothing more than surface differences and issues, the horizontal dimension, or first-order change. Another model is needed, that gets to the "heart" of the problem.

This third mode is justifiably called, the Heart Model. Instead of coming from the top or bottom, it is proceeds from the inside-out. The value of this model is that it is focused on internal transformation. Herein lies the key factor. All the diversity training and race relations classes in the world will effect little good, because much of the approach is cerebral, fact-filled and intellectual, and surface oriented. But this cerebral, external approach has to be balanced off with a concern for internal transformation. The Heart Model suggests that to bring about a change in human relations more than just lip-service, unbalanced approaches, political adjustments, superficial differences, or fine words are needed. When Jesus declared that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34), he meant that our words and attitudes toward each other well-up from a deeper source, our genuine heart-felt feelings, our value systems. All the diversity training and education in the world will not effect much lasting change if the source of such change, our deep-level values, beliefs, worldviews-the heart, the source of our emotions and feelings toward one another-is not transformed. For this reason, the most effective and lasting change in race relations can only take place when the transformation is internal-at the heart/mind level, our knee-jerk reaction, at the root of our fundamental paradigm-our deep-level values-and not just external in superficial words and cosmetic deeds.

This is the weakness of the other two models in that all the intercultural knowledge in the world, all the policies, pronouncements, and programs for inclusion, will effect little change if they are not accompanied by internal, heart-felt, deep-seated, emotion-filled, transformation of cultural values, our deep decision systems within. It is not the mind so much that needs transformation as the heart, the seat of emotions, feelings, and psychological needs; the spiritual well out of which our value systems emerge, that preserve self-interest even against evidence to the contrary. If individuals themselves do not undergo such an internal paradigm shift little will have been accomplished. Thus, for effective improvement in race and ethnic relations, the unit of analysis must not only be the institution, but, more importantly, the individual. It then becomes a reciprocal process of change, each impacting the other.

"Inside-out" change takes place on two levels. The first is the level of the individual within the institution. This change entails "individuals finding, nurturing, and creating the conditions that promote care within the social institutions in which they routinely live their lives." Pearl and Samuel Oliner (1995) then declare, "A caring society...depends on just this very process." This is the only way institutions will change, as individuals begin to "live the change they wish to see in the world," as Gandhi so gently reminded us. But what enables individuals to live out this change is the second level, an internal transformation of the value systems in their own hearts. This has much to do with character.

Character is an individual trait essential for the creation of a caring, civil society, "a society where people assume responsibility for the Other's welfare, in that they acknowledge the Others' needs and act responsively" (Oliner and Oliner 1995). What is character? Character is that quality of soul-mind, will and emotions-that imprints our moral being with personal integrity in word and deed. It has much to do with honor, the ability to give your word and keep it. And it is developed through the power of choice in the wise decisions we make. There is a vast difference between character and reputation. Reputation is who we are in the presence of others; character is who we are when we are alone. What we do when we are alone reveals who we really are. The lawsuits against the Texaco Corporation for prejudicial remarks and discriminatory action behind closed doors exposed this very problem in corporate settings (Roberts 1998). Here is where "true power" is made manifest, in the decisions we make. True power is the capacity to know that you can but you don't, because your value systems have shifted as a result of changing life conditions. A lot of organizations and their leaders are concerned with their reputation and therefore address diversity issues, but only because they are forced to comply or else their bottomline-economic gains-will be effected. Such is not the change that proceeds from character. Character-based change is where change takes place because to do otherwise would be unjust. It is one where the initiative comes, not from the ones experiencing injustice, but from those who have the power to implement justice and do so because they recognize the situation for what it is, and not because they have been reminded of what it is not. This type of change emerges from an understanding and practice of genuine justice.

Genuine justice is not based on fairness! In fact, a preoccupation with justice as fairness lies at the root of most problems in our society and in the world today, whether between individuals, groups, or nations, and is at the center of the affirmative action debate. At the heart of "justice as fairness" lies equal treatment, which wrongly assumes everyone is the same and thus the need for "fair play," which we all learn from childhood. But socio-historical circumstances preclude equality. This is why in some track and field events, the starting blocks are staggered, so that everyone will have an equal opportunity, though not necessarily an equal outcome. This is where a legitimate affirmative action comes in as equitable measures-short of restructuring society-to create a level playing field. There are many people today in America's class-divided society that, because of socio-historical conditions or merely accidents of birth, find themselves on the "inside track" and don't always realize that circumstances are stacked in their favor, but think they are playing on a level field. When they see the starting blocks being staggered, to give those on the "outside track" an equal chance, they cry out, "unfair," "reverse discrimination," "preferential treatment," not realizing that the playing field of American society is stratified. As Carol Lloyd reminds us, "Those who think there's a level playing field usually have box seats." Short of totally redesigning the playing field of socioeconomic, political structures, affirmative action becomes essential in righting societal inequities. It is based on the "principle of redress," that undeserved inequalities call for rectification. Since inequalities of birth are undeserved, these inequalities are to be somehow compensated for. Thus in order to treat all persons equally and provide genuine equality of opportunity, society must give more attention to those born into or placed in less favorable social positions (Rawls 1971). This "fair share" approach is a particularistic and not a universal action, since it is an attempt to place particular groups in the position that they would have held had there been no barriers in their paths to success (Willie 1991). This is not the same as equal outcome, which can never be guaranteed due to many factors, the principle one being cultural values-the vMEMEs-those deep-level decision systems that impact attitudes and behaviors of success or failure. Lawrence E. Harrison has written extensively on how internal values impact external success (1985, 1992, 1997).

From a Yellow vMEMEs perspective, true affirmative action is concerned with function and not form, competence and not position, "making heads count and not merely counting heads" (Abdín Noboa). This is not the "demand" model of affirmative action bashed in the media and focused on promoting people based on surface differences without the needed qualifications. Rather, it is the "supply" model of affirmative action, suggested by Charles C. Moskos and John Sibley Butler in their book, All That We Can Be: Black Leadership and Racial Integration the Army Way (1996), that first broadens the pool of qualified candidates by taking early steps, through education, training, and recruitment (development of the Blue vMEME), to prepare people for positions of advancement. With the latter approach one will then have a qualified base-Yellow-from which to select, rather than scampering around for anyone to fill slots.

Thus, genuine justice is based on need, not fairness (Rosado 1997). And since people's needs differ, due to differing socio-historical circumstances, true justice does not spring from what people deserve, but from what they need. It is not fair play (Orange) but fair share (Green), based on the needs of both the individual and the institution (Yellow). Why? Because as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "There is no greater inequality than the equal treatment of unequals." Only when individuals and institutions get to this point will we begin to approximate a caring society (Turquoise).

The point of the third mode, the Heart Model-the basis of MeshWORKS-is that it needs to be integral to the other two models, the Bureaucratic and the Grassroots (see The MeshWORKS Model graphic). The integration of the Heart Model through MeshWORKS (the level of Yellow) with the other two models, will make Turquoise possible, unity in the human family. This is because we have fundamentally restructured the institutions of society based on a transformation of our value systems from the inside out (see The MeshWORKS Model graphic).

Paulo Freire (1973) said as much when he declared. It is an "illusion that the hearts of men and women can be transformed while the social structures which make those hearts 'sick' are left intact and unchanged." This integration of the third model to the other two brings about lasting, effective change by living inclusion through MeshWORKS, the new modus operandi of Spiral Dynamics(r). In order for human systems-institutions and societies-to be successful in the Third Millennium, they must move from Civil War-the Blue vMEME centered on Freedom, to Civil Rights-Orange and Green vMEMEs centered on Equality, to Civil Transformation-the Yellow vMEME centered on Mutuality (Don Beck). MeshWORKS facilitates this process through an awakening of the next level of human development. Unfortunately, at present as a nation we are stuck in a quagmire-like struggle over "civil rights" and going nowhere.

What Can We Do?

If racism is a meme and has nothing to do with genes, how do we counter this infectious idea and social virus? By considering the alternate course of action of MeshWORKS. Here are some practical suggestions that an individual and institution can do to implement this course of action to lessen the problem of racism as a social evil and sin in the world today. How people proceed, however, depends on how they see themselves when confronted with evil. There are four groups of people representing the four types of responses individuals and institutions can make in the face of evil (Oliner and Oliner 1988).

  1. Perpetrators-the inflictors of evil.
  2. Victims-the recipients of evil.
  3. Bystanders-the ones who do nothing in the face of evil.
  4. Rescuers-the compassionate and altruistic who take action against evil.

The kind of action people take in a given situation will largely depend on how they interpret that situation, or in general view themselves. Thus, if people generally see themselves as Perpetrators, rather than come to the help of someone they will more than likely take advantage of a situation. Being a Victim, however, can have a paralyzing effect, creating a "victim mentality." When it comes to racism, people tend to respond on the basis of their own experience. Thus, people who have never experienced racism tend to downplay a situation of racism or discrimination because it has not greatly affected them. People of color, on the other hand, if they have experienced discrimination, tend to view it as a more aggravated offense. It is a matter of, where you stand determines what you see. If people do not see a situation as threatening to them they may conclude that it is not threatening to others as well, and will remain as Bystanders, often because they see the social system as fair, "with liberty and justice for all." This is a result of the "Just World Phenomenon." Stanley Coren (1992) explains the concept this way. "People tend to feel that the world is, with a few bumps here and there, pretty much a fair place, where people generally get what they deserve and deserve what they get. This notion of a just world results from our training as children that good is rewarded and evil is punished. A natural conclusion can be drawn from that kind of reasoning: Those who are rewarded must be good, and those who suffer (even from our own discrimination and prejudice) must deserve their fate."

Unfortunately, much of what passes for racism in America today is not regarded as such by those who have never experienced racism, because they buy into this Just World Phenomenon. The result is that they tend to see situations from their own (Orange) perspective-as fair and just-and seldom from the perspective of the Other, the victims of evil. If people of color see themselves as victims it is often believed they bring it on themselves or are making a bigger issue of things then there really is need for. The end result is that when it comes to racism in American society, most Americans "naturally" gravitate to the role of bystander and do nothing. So what can one do? How can one become a Rescuer?

26 Do-Ables for Unlearning Racism and Prejudice:
Examining Our Value Systems and Actions (Rosado 1998)

    For Individuals-Personal Changes: All Change begins with self-awareness. Reengineering our attitudes about race means that we must examine ourselves.

  1. Closely examine your values and beliefs; why do you think, believe, and behave toward others as you do.
  2. Ask yourself: Do others who are different from me, either by culture or physical features, make me uncomfortable? Why? Probe your psyche to discover the root causes.
  3. Become informed about groups or individuals with whom you have the greatest contact but about whom you know little. Remember, one of the bases of prejudice is ignorance. Therefore, read, attend lectures, participate in workshops, view films that will provide correct information about others whom you desire to know better.
  4. Seek to become bicultural-comfortable in more than one setting or with more than one group-with intercultural competence, a key factor for success in any field in the 21st century.
  5. Take courses at a local college on diversity and human relations training.
  6. Live your love by setting before your family and friends and example of nonprejudiced respect for and acceptance of others.2
  7. Measure your words carefully before you speak to others. What you may think is harmless may come across as insensitive. For example, just because Blacks talk to Blacks and Latinos talk to Latinos in a certain manner does not mean you have the right to do the same. You may not totally understand what is behind an expression(s), or what the expression means in the hands of an "outsider."
  8. Become an world citizen, a transcending person who knows no cultural boundaries and who is able to go beyond his/her own racial/ethnic, gender, cultural, and socio-political reality to identify with humankind throughout the world; one whose life-principle is compassion.
  9. Always maintain a teachable spirit.

    For Individuals-Assisting Others: Being self-aware is great, but how can our actions really make a difference in society? Here's how:

  10. Do not tolerate prejudiced people, prejudiced talk, or racist action. Speak up when you hear disparaging jokes or comments. Don't attack the person; rather discourage their talk or action. For instance, to someone making a disparaging comment about other people you might say: "I find such a statement [or action] personally offensive to me since it is demeaning of others."
  11. Give good literature, recommend films, lectures, meetings to your friends and family.
  12. If you hear your child or their friends making derogatory statements or using "trash-talk" about others, correct them immediately. For example. "Tyrone, they are not 'illegal aliens,' no one is 'illegal.' They are 'undocumented,' meaning they do not have the necessary papers to enter this country."
  13. Write letters to newspapers, magazines, and TV sponsors giving your opinion on statements and actions that demean people.
  14. Let them know when they've done a good job. They listen.
  15. Organize "getting to know you" events with others in your community or church to change negative attitudes and actions toward others.
  16. Write your congressional representatives. They speak only one language: votes. They'll listen to you-especially if you get a few other friends to join in.

    For Institutions-Effecting Change: We've all heard the term "institutional racism." Nothing is more disconcerting to an individual experiencing racism than the reality that he or she is up against a systemized pattern of prejudice. CEOs take not. Here are some tips on changing the racial climate in your organization.

  17. For institutions to change, their culture, vision, values, and ideology must change. All policies must be based around a single ideology.
  18. Examine an institution's deep belief and value systems, and how such values are reflected in surface relations. Human diversity at the deep levels of cultural values and thinking systems may be the greatest, most empowering, diversity of all, for these determine how people think, not just what they say, value, or do. It also exposes how these Thinking Systems often result in different socioeconomic outcomes between groups.
  19. Move from fine-tuning and adjusting the current system with more of the same, to awakening in people a deeper level of thinking and acting toward others. The key question for understanding others is: "What kind of thinking prompted that kind of behavior?"
  20. Examine carefully your employment/membership policies. Do they reflect the diversity of the organization? Are they proactive or merely reactive to avoid possible lawsuits?
  21. Hold training seminars in intercultural competence: how to get to know people of other groups even though they may be not be highly represented in your organization. Remember that information about other groups is not sufficient to change attitudes, much less behavior.
  22. Since class prejudice may be stronger than racial or religious prejudice, create activities that will enable people from various socioeconomic situations to mingle and interact together. Upper level management should feel comfortable with mail clerks, and vice versa.
  23. Since a high degree of self-acceptance correlates with a low degree of prejudice, address issues of self-acceptance, self-worth, pride in one's own racial/ethnic heritage as a positive basis of group relations. The operating principle here is: "Love your neighbor as yourself." I cannot love my neighbor if I do not love my self.
  24. Put people to work and interact in interracial learning teams so as to develop positive attitudes and cross-ethnic friendships.
  25. Since contact between groups by itself will not reduce prejudice, seek to create situations where groups can come together on an equal and non-competitive basis.
  26. Make a commitment and act on it!

While racism is an evil and a social sin that will be hard to eradicate, due to the selfish (Red) propensities of human nature, the above (Green/Yellow) steps taken individually and institutionally, can help reduce its impact on society as we head into the 21st century. Edmund Burke once declared: "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing." We cannot take the role of Bystanders, but must be Rescuers if we are to go about creating a caring-Turquoise-society for the Third Millennium. Thus, Max DePree's (1989) dictum of success for the 21st century serves as a challenge to us: "We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are."

Spiral Dynamics(r) is a registered trademark of the National Values Center, Inc., in Denton, Texas.

*Caleb Rosado, (Ph.D., Northwestern University) is a sociologist. He has been a university professor and a human systems consultant since 1978 and is now president of ROSADO CONSULTING for Change in Human Systems. He is writing a book, Memetics, Multiculturalism, and the Millennium: The Multiple Futures of Racism. Website:; e-mail:

1 Virtually all cultures, for example, give the color black a negative meaning, symbolic of evil and death. But this meaning resides not in the color but in the culture. See F. M. Adams & C. E. Osgood, "A Cross -Cultural Study of the Affective Meanings of Color," Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 1975, Vol. 4, pp. 135-156. Cf. Mark G. Frank and Thomas Gilovich, "The Dark Side of Self- and Social Perception: Black Uniforms and Aggression in Professional Sports," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1988, Vol. 54, No. 1, pp. 74-85, and the special issue of Daedalus, Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Spring 1967, on "Color and Race." 2 This idea and some others in this article are from an unpublished document, "A Few Suggestions for Improvement of Intergroup and Intragroup Relations," prepared by Samuel Oliner and others from Humboldt State University Department of Sociology and Psychology, n.d.


Abbott , Edwin. 1984 [1884]. Flatland: A Romance in Multiple Dimensions. New York: New American Library.
Allport, Gordon W. 1958. The Nature of Prejudice. New York: Doubleday & Company.
Bastide, Roger. 1967. Color , Racism, and Christianity. Dćdulas, Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Spring.
Beck, Don. 1997. Things Have Indeed Gone Wrong in Sports. Sports, A Cultural Obsession: Role and Responsibilities of the Press. American Press Institute, J. Montgomery Curtis Memorial Seminar, September 14-16.
_______. 1998a. Spirals of Complexity: Culture and Citizenship in the 21st Century-American Perspective & Challenge. Paper presented at the National Strategy Forum. Theme: "Who Belongs? Citizenship in Conflict with the 21st Century." Sponsored by the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation, June 25 and 26, 1998, Chicago, IL.
______. 1988b. MeshWORKS. Unpublished document.
Beck, Don E. and Christopher C. Cowan. 1996. Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change. New York: Blackwell.
Bloom, Howard. The Lucifer Principle. Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press.
_______. 1998. Forthcoming as Global Brain: Evolution of the Mass Mind.
Brodie, Richard. 1995. Virus of the Mind. Seattle: Integral Press.
Collins, Randall. 1988. Theoretical Sociology. San Diego: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, Publishers.
Coren, Stanley. 1992. The Left-Hander Syndrome: The Causes & Consequences of Left-Handedness. New York: The Free Press.
Cose, Ellis. 1997. Color-Blind. Seeing Beyond Race in a Race-Obsessed World. New York: HarperCollins.
Cowan, Christopher C. 1998. E-mail correspondence, October 19.
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. 1990. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper & Row. ______. 1993. The Evolving Self. New York: HarperCollins.
Dawkins, Richard. 1976. The Selfish Gene. New York: Oxford University Press.
DePree, Max. 1989. Leadership Is an Art. New York: Bantam.
DuBois, W. E. B. 1961 [1903]. The Souls of Black Folk. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Publications, Inc.
Erikson, E. H. 1950. Childhood and Society. New York: W. W. Norton.
Fowler, James W. 1995 [1981]. Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning. San Francisco: Harper Collins.
Freire, Paulo. 1973. Risk, No. 9:2.
Geist, Val. 1998. And in Howard Bloom, Forthcoming. Global Brain: Evolution of the Mass Mind.
Gibson, James J. 1950. The Perception of the Visual World. Houghton Mifflin, Boston. MA.
Graves, Clare. W. 1974. Human Nature Prepares for a Momentous Leap. The Futurist, April.
Hall, Edward T. 1969. The Hidden Dimension. New York: Anchor.
Harrison, Lawrence E. 1985. Underdevelopment Is a State of Mind-The Latin American Case. Lanham, MD: The Center for International Affairs, Harvard University and University Press of America.
_______. 1992. Who Prospers: How Cultural Values Shape Economic and Political Success. New York: HarperCollins.
_______. 1997. The Pan-American Dream: Do Latin America's Cultural Values Discourage True Partnership With the United States and Canada? New York: HarperCollins.
Herrnstein, Richard J. and Charles Murray. 1994. The Bell Curve. New York: Free Press.
Jaspers, Karl. 1923. Psychopathologie General. Paris.
Jensen, Peter. 1988. Along the Way/Summer Olympics: The Athlete
s to Watch in Seoul, Vis á Vis, the Magazine of United Airlines, Inc., Vol. 2:9, September. Kohlberg, Lawrence. 1984. The Psychology of Moral Development: Essays on Moral Development, Vol. 2. San Francisco: Harper & Row.
Kuhn, Thomas S. 1970. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Linscott, Graham. 1998. The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of Parts. Natal "Mercury," (South Africa). October 17. E-mail on October 21, 1998, from Don E. Beck.
Loevinger, Jane. 1976. Ego Development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
Linscott, Graham. 1998. The Whole is Greater than the Sum of Parts.. Natal "Mercury," (South Africa).
October 17. E-mail on October 21, 1998, from Don E. Beck.
Lynch, Aaron. 1996. Thought Contagion: How Belief Spreads Through Society. New York: Basic Books.
Mannheim, Karl. 1936. Ideology and Utopia . New York: Harvest Books.
Marshall, Elliot. 1998. Cultural Anthropology: DNA Studies Challenge the Meaning of Race. Science, Vol. 282, Number 5389. October 23.
Maslow, Abraham. 1954. Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper.
Montague, Ashley. 1965. Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race, 4th ed., revised and enlarged. New York, Columbia University Press.
Moskos, Charles C. and John Sibley Butler. 1996. All That We Can Be: Black Leadership and Racial Integration the Army Way. New York: Basic Books.
Oliner, Pearl M. and Samuel P. Oliner. 1995. Toward a Caring Society: Ideas into Action. Westport, CT: Praeger.
_____, Samuel P. and Pearl M. Oliner. 1988. The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe. New York: Free Press.
Pate, Glenn S. 1981. "Research on Prejudice Reduction," Educational Leadership, January
Rawls, John. 1971. A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Roberts, Bari-Ellen, with Jack White. 1998. Roberts VS. Texaco: A True Story of Race & Corporate America. New York: Avon Books
Robertson, Ian. 1987. Sociology, Third Edition. New York: Worth Publishers, Inc.
Rogers, Carl. 1951. Client-Centered Therapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Rosado, Caleb. 1997. Affirmative Action: A Time for Change? Latino Studies Journal, Vol. 8:3, Fall 1997.
_______. 1998. Practical Do-Ables for Unlearning Racism. Message, September/October.
Ruth, Roger A.. and Chris C. Cowan. 1993. Managing Human Complexity and Change For the Tulsa Police Department. Tulsa: Systemic Development Institute.
Ryan, William. 1976. Blaming the Victim. New York: Vintage.
Scientific American. 1992. Special issue on the "Mind and Brain," September.
Stark, Rodney. 1996. Sociology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 6th Edition.
Thomas, William I. and Dorothy Swaine Thomas. 1928. The Child in America. New York: Knopf.
Willie, Charles V. 1991. Universal Programs Are Unfair to Minority Groups. The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 4.
Wilson, Edward O. 1998. Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge. New York: Knopf.
Wolpoff, Milford and Rachel Caspari. 1997. Race and Human Evolution. New York: Simon & Schuster.

(c) Copyright 1998. ROSADO CONSULTING for Change in Human Systems. All rights Reserved.

an Equity Literacy Institute and EdChange project
© Paul C. Gorski, 1995-2020