An Interview with Wai Lana about “Colors”
Question: We treat people differently all the time. Why can’t we treat someone differently based on the color of their skin?
Wai Lana: Because that’s racism. And racism causes suffering all over the world on so many levels. First, you have the person who is holding onto racial prejudice towards others. He is suffering with this cold-heartedness. He then causes suffering to the people he’s prejudiced against. Then those people, experiencing the brunt of racism, feel angry towards the racist. This anger and hatred can then grow and escalate. Over time it can affect whole communities, and even nations. It’s a vicious cycle and a huge problem.
Question: What is the root cause of racism?
Wai Lana: Racism is rooted in not being able to see that different-colored bodies are just like different-colored clothes. If I judge someone according to the race of their body, it’s just like judging someone based on the color of the clothes they are wearing. This is the message of my new song “Colors.” Obviously, we all have different appearances and characteristics, but we need to look beyond those external differences—look beyond the clothing.
Racism only exists when we falsely identify the body as the self.
Question: So what is the solution to overcome racism?
Wai Lana: The only real solution is to have a change in people’s consciousness and attitudes. First, we must realize that anger is not the solution. Love is the solution. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
And secondly, we must learn to see beyond skin color. To truly see people for who they really are, first I must know who I am. Yoga teaches that I am not my body—that I am an eternal spiritual being only temporarily in a material body. Racism only exists when we falsely identify the body as the self. So if we come to know our true spiritual identity, it will eliminate the foundation of racism and naturally lead to greater harmony in our relationships with others.
Question: You said anger is not the solution, but what can I do if someone expresses racism towards me?
Wai Lana: Obviously, there are some extreme expressions of racism, but when we’re talking about a situation where someone dislikes you because of the color of your body, then love and wisdom can counteract that person’s hate and ignorance.
We must first recognize that if someone dislikes me because of the color of my skin, it’s the same as disliking me because of the color of my clothes. If you understand, “I am not my body,” then you don’t have to let the ignorance of others bother you.
With this simple understanding, you can overcome the negativity you may feel due to other people’s unhappiness and hatred. In other words, we can choose to break the cycle. If someone hates me because of the color of my skin, I no longer have to feel anger or hatred towards that person.
Not everyone knows this truth, but once you do, you can actually experience compassion for someone who is racist. And out of love, try to educate them and help them go beyond their hatred—to let go of that burden of unhappiness they are holding onto.
Although “Colors” is a fun and playful song, the message can actually help people understand that we are not our bodies, just as we are not our clothes. And the more people understand the truth of our identity, the less racism there will be.