Arkansas Democrat Gazette, July 2016

The conditions before us demand that we respond in personal and courageous ways in order to resolve our nation’s racial quagmire. There are small and large steps that we must take individually and collectively to arrive at our national destiny as a unified and reconciled America.

For some, the first (perhaps the hardest) step is as simple as being brave enough to initiate a conversation or offer a helping hand to someone of a different racial background. It’s the small gestures that can lead to greater and deeper appreciation and understanding between persons who used to be strangers.

People are living, working, learning, and playing beside each other all the time, hiding behind façades which sometimes give them a false sense of comfort with one another. Although this comfort may be real and tangible, it may lack the depth necessary for us to ultimately overcome the racial fears and insecurities which continue to keep us apart.

While a lot of us struggle with emotional or psychological barriers about race, others are actually motivated by their feelings of racial guilt. On the one hand, this sense of shame seems to paralyze many of our friends and neighbors, but on the other hand, it is the reason why so many are even willing to take risks to help achieve a more racially tolerant America.

This kind of paralysis has caused us to choose to remain silent and still, when we should be more vocal and active. And because we have grown complacent over time, we have not adequately dealt with the deeper elements of bigotry which still lie beneath the veneer of our daily realities.

Our immediate task is to help each other emerge from our bubbles and safe havens by demonstrating racial courage – whether it’s subtle or bold, large or small. What’s most important is that we encourage people everywhere to engage and embrace one another across racial lines in ways that are both comfortable and inconvenient.

We have to start somewhere and for most of us, that’s the most challenging aspect of it all. We can’t afford to keep reacting to crisis situations and then decide that we need to do something about the contaminant in our hearts.

We have to start where we are and use what we have to promote racial reconciliation and understanding in the personal spaces that we occupy daily. Every single one of us has to take this challenge personally and approach our racial quandary with a sense of urgency.

We must be accountable for what’s in our souls — our minds, wills, and emotions. What are we thinking, feeling, and choosing as it relates to racial issues? Do our beliefs, attitudes, and habits exhibit mutual respect and tolerance?

We must respond to racial animosity at the individual level first, because we are the ones who are responsible for the genesis as well as perpetuation of bigotry and hate. This is our shared spiritual problem and it has to be purged from the hearts and souls of everyday people, before it can be sufficiently eradicated from the culture and soul of our nation.

If our desire is to reaffirm the inherent value and dignity of all Americans, then we must first come to grips with the hidden fears and insecurities that we wrestle with on a personal level.

We can never expect to be able to grant anyone the honor and respect they deserve until we are able to appreciate who we are as racially unique and distinctive individuals and groups of people.