Sunday, July 3, 2022
Words of the Week: American Tribalism – The Labyrinth
By Rev. Dr. Arthur Chang, Contributing Writer
Published February 17, 2021

      Rev. Dr. Arthur Chang (Courtesy photo)

When King Minos imprisoned Daedalus and Icarus in the labyrinth, it was impossible to escape by foot, and the sea was guarded. Daedalus was the master craftsman, who designed the labyrinth for King Minos for reasons we will not go into here.

Over a period, Daedalus and the king experienced a decline in their relationship. Consequently, the king placed Daedalus and Icarus in the labyrinth. Having made the labyrinth so ingeniously, Daedalus could not find his way out, but for one option. It was open to the sky.

Daedalus made wings of wax for his son and himself and told his son not to fly too near to the sun because the wax would melt the wax wings, nor so low that the sea monsters would get him. His son was so thrilled to be flying that he forgot his father’s advice; the sun melted the wax and he plunged to his death in the ocean. Daedalus went on to escape alone.


Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

Is it possible that American Tribalism is systemic racism and the labyrinth in which African descendants are placed? Native Americans may be in a different kind of labyrinth called “the reservation.” This is far more obvious. The labyrinth of color of African Americans is not blending in with the majority of Caucasian Americans. The labyrinth gives the illusion of freedom. While some Blacks enjoy a higher level of freedom, the majority are constrained from escaping the labyrinth.

As the sea, guarded, provided no route for Daedalus and Icarus to escape the labyrinth, so does skin color restrain Black Americans from escaping systemic racism? For Blacks, the nature of the labyrinth supports low education and poor development of industry as well as little integration into key organizational positions.

Like Daedalus’ condition, only the air is open for Black Americans to escape. As Icarus fashioned wings for his son and himself to escape, the wings of escape for Black Americans must be created through education, wealth, and love.

For these changes to come about, White America needs to see what is in this change for them. When the South was defeated by the North and ex-slaves were given land, it was not long after the union soldiers went back home before the Southern White folks took away the land, leaving Blacks just marginally better than they were as slaves.

Escaping the labyrinth can and must be a win/win situation for a better and stronger America. Here, Daedalus must be a genius by committee. It must include local and the federal governments with fair laws. Gradually, there will be a thawing of the fear of change and ignorance regarding the stereotyping of color. This will heal the King Minos mindset of our dominant culture, blind to systemic racism by its “sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity” as King referred to it.


The function of wise and spiritual leadership is to set the tone for our country for instilling attitudes for positive change. This light of hope is already shining in the new leadership at the helm of our America — the shift from “This is my land,” to “This is our land.” The attitude of “my” and “I” is the King Minos syndrome — absolute power, which corrupts absolutely. Minos was an absolute ruler. America is a “We the people” relational and ingenious vision.

Who can deny that systemic racism, the offspring of slavery, has encouraged hostility of the strong toward the weak in atrocious ways. Knowing that we would not like our loved ones to be treated like this, we can let this common insight into our humanity be the starting point for positive change, to bring about “a more perfect union.”

The function of family is to model communal unity. Homo sapiens are relational creatures living in a relational universe. From families, we became tribes, then nations. The next step is become more deeply spiritual — to realize, as Jesus did, that we are from one source, or as Jesus expressed it, “Our Father which is in heaven.”

By dismantling the labyrinth of systemic racism, where will be the win/win? It will be found in a new respectful society, a more creative people, and a modeling of an image of human relationship the whole world needs if we are to survive on the planet.

When Black Americans and other marginalized segments of the population thrive and flourish, our whole country and the world will too. In this new maturity, American Tribalism will be outgrown and irrelevant and a vitality of quantum proportions will be achieved for all our people.

By giving up the labyrinth of American Tribalism, we will be exchanging “sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity” for a wise and holistic America whose status in the world will grow as she nurtures the best in every one of her children.

The Rev. Dr. Arthur Chang is the senior minister of Founder’s Church – Los Angeles, A Center for Spiritual Living.



Categories: Religion
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