Read this article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette | Published July 2014
In far too many places in America, the sad reality is that race, and issues related to it, cannot be discussed because of the historical, emotional, and social baggage that is attached to it. There are not enough people who are willing or capable of dealing with race and racism without somehow poisoning or distorting the conversation with “stuff” that stems from experiences and beliefs that have nothing to do with the issues at hand.
Honest and meaningful discussions pertaining to racial matters are almost impossible because the people themselves often do not have the capacity to be open and objective without getting distracted or hijacked by personal or old feelings and emotions. Centuries removed from the stench of de jure slavery, America is still haunted (and stunted) by the remnants of her past.
While this nation has seemingly dismantled every known and tangible racist fixture, law, and policy, what remains are practices and attitudes which people adopted along the way – things that cannot be eradicated by some legal precedent or act of Congress. The habits, myths, and beliefs that have been passed down through families and traditions are the essential root of the indelible stain marking the hearts and minds of people everywhere.
America’s indelible stain is a spirit of racism and it continues to haunt and stunt our nation at its core. Distrust and hatred across racial groups is preventing us from becoming one nation truly under God. As people continue to be inhibited by their own fears and insecurities about other people, they continue to miss out on opportunities for friendship, relationships, social interaction, and spiritual growth over the course of their lifetimes.
The unfortunate reality is that the indelible stain on many people’s hearts has created an almost impenetrable shield. Instead of embracing and celebrating our unique qualities and diversity, we are still choosing to remain fixated on old preconceived notions and misconceptions about each other and are preoccupying ourselves with past sins that have largely been acknowledged, litigated, and atoned for.
Our unwillingness or inability to move beyond our nation’s past and to deal with the stain on our hearts and in our minds contributes to the level of incivility and animosity that is so prevalent in our public square. In this country, we spend too much time re-litigating and rehashing racial conversations and debates that do not move us any closer to resolving or healing past hurts and wounds.
It’s not hard to see the correlation between the intransigence throughout some of our political systems and the level of distrust among different groups of people. The violence being perpetrated in our cities is a consequence of people feeling devalued and unappreciated by institutions and systems that don’t account for the economic and social barriers facing the perpetrators on a daily basis.
For many black people in America, we live our lives believing, and perhaps knowing, that some white Americans still tacitly view us as inferior to them. Some of these views are rooted in what people were taught, some based on ignorance, and others do stem from personal experiences.
Even as we’ve experienced so much social and economic progress as a nation, we always seem to get shocked back to reality by revelations such as what we witnessed from the mouth and heart of the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers professional basketball team.
Ultimately, most of us pray and hope that somehow the stench and remnants of racism would just disappear. However, we keep getting hard reminders that we still have a long way to go and that we will have to continue to work hard to eliminate this cancer from American life.
The spirit of racism in America continues to rear its ugly head as a strong reminder that we can’t simply wish it away, sweep it under a rug, and forget about it. The challenge and task which seem to have been preordained for us as Americans of this current generation have not changed.
We must insist on greater civility, understanding, and tolerance as we try to weave our ways through the maze of race relations in America. We must deal head on with what’s in people’s hearts, if we hope to get to the core of racism.
Personal faith and religion are critical for teaching us all individually and corporately how to love and respect one another, without regard to race. For those of us who profess a Christian faith, we know that a transformed heart and renewed mind love unconditionally.
Everyday people must confront racism where they live, work, and play, in big and small ways. In a really weird way, it’s probably a good thing that we get these reminders that racism still exists, because it forces us to examine whether we treat everyone fairly and respectfully.
We all should pray and expect that the day and time will come, when people’s hearts and minds will be cleansed of the stain called racism, so that we can all live, work, and play alongside one another as everyday Americans. We can do better and we must do better as one nation under God.