Can't We Just Talk?
Writing in today's Los Angeles Times, Carl Byker agrees with Senator Barack Obama that it is time for white and black Americans to enter into dialogue about race relationships "...in ways that will bridge the divide."
He invites white Americans to ask themselves what it would have felt like "...to work 365 days a year from sunrise to midnight, with no hope of a better life" - and to know that his/her children were condemned to live out "the same nightmare". He urges black Americans to ask themselves: "If I were a white Southerner before the Civil War, would I have owned slaves if it meant a better life for my family" - and to wonder if a decision to do so automatically made him/her an "evil" person.?
I heartily support Byker's concluding sentence: "After years of making historical documentaries, I'm convinced that the most important thing about coming to grips with our past is that it enables us to figure out who we want to be in the future."
Last Tuesday night, in his "More Perfect Union" speech, Obama modeled for each of us what speaking honestly and openly from one's heart looks like. What if each of us were to ponder and answer for ourselves, the questions Byker puts before us? What if, having done our inner "homework", we then began to share our thoughts and feelings about race with members of our families and with our friends? What if local churches, synagogues, mosques, and other groups within our neighborhoods and communities were to offer rooms and facilitators where small groups of citizens of all colors and beliefs could sit down together and dialogue about their "homework"?
Could we, would we, dare to talk together "...in ways that will bridge the divide"? Could we, would we, be willing to dialogue with one another in ways that are respectful of our very different racial and experiential histories? Could we, would we, seek to understand each other, rather than to judge, label, and condemn each other? Could we, would we, have the courage to "Seize the Day"? Imagine the possibilities if we decided that we could and we would...!