The night the Dallas officers were killed I told my daughter that I felt as I did the night Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot. I was that emotional. I was that fearful.
Fearful for my country. Fearful for my family. Fearful for my daughter who is marrying a white man. I wondered what would happen next.
And my daughter felt it, too.
A nation on the brink.
The social unrest, combined with the political unrest, is pushing us to that brink. My grandmother used to say that if we didn't understand history, then we would repeat it. My friends, there cannot be a repeat. The reality is that there are Americans who wish we could go back. These individuals want to revisit a time when people of color were not included in society. But our country, the United States of America, was founded on a constitution where "all men were created equal, one nation under God."
If we really want to move beyond this mess we are in today, we must dig the poison out of our country. We can't allow it to continue to grow. Fester. Silently spread.
It is up to you and I. To move to action. To go deep. To cut out the poison. To rid ourselves of bias and hate.
The poison of hate. The poison of those not willing to love. Those not willing to accept each other. Those who aren't interested in admitting that white privilege is real. Those who aren't willing to truly understanding how different the journey is for a white person versus a black person. Or to accept that slavery was a reality. That racism and all -isms still exist.
The poison is us. The poison is bias. The bias causes us not to see the beauty in each other only the bad. The bias blocks empathy. It blocks curiosity. It robs us of the opportunity to connect as humans.
If people could open their hearts to understand that blacks are not asking for a handout. We simply want the opportunity to achieve the same level of success as anyone else. We want to be included. We want to belong. We want to believe our constitution included black people.
If white people would become curious they would find out that we don't want you to say that we are so "articulate." It is not a compliment - it is a put-down. It's as if you are surprised that a black person could possibly demonstrate command of the English language.
And please stop assuming that one black person can speak for the entire black population. It seems difficult for people to understand that #blacklivesmatter is not saying that only black lives matter. It is saying ALL lives matter, including black lives. For the last two hundred years in North America it has been the perception of black people that our lives don't matter.
I will admit that we as blacks need to be more open.
We were taught by God-fearing and loving parents who didn't want to see us lynched. Because of that, we were taught not to trust white people. Whites - especially in the South - were taught (if you are a baby boomer) not to associate with black people. This is a general statement so please take it with a grain of salt but most baby boomer white people were taught by their parents that black people were bad people. Baby boomer blacks were taught by their parents and grandparents who suffered death at the hands of white men not to trust white people. That's the truth! Why don't we all dare to touch our truth.
Equality is nothing to be feared.
Just as we lovingly treat our young children's scraped knees, cuts or burns, bringing the dirt to the surface by washing and disinfecting, carefully rubbing antibiotic ointment to treat the infection - the poison. Then placing a bandage, not to temporarily cover or hide the injury, but to protect and heal it. We kiss it and send them on their way.
Our children come to us with tears in their eyes. Trusting us to make it better. Trusting us to care of it.
That is our country today. Waiting for someone else to take care of the injuries, the poison. It's not right. WE are that someone. We, every citizen in the United States of America, represent the solution to the challenge.
But how do we get rid of this poison? It seems so deep, too overwhelming, too far gone.
But it's not. How easy it could be if we'd just get started. Today. Taking the step, no matter the outcome. No matter how much we might fear starting the conversation. Maybe the fear is one of rejection, maybe it is one of facing the truth of our past, fear about insulting someone else, or maybe it is just fear of difference.
We need to start the conversations and keep them going. As Christians, we are called to be the light. To introduce others. To walk across the room. To meet people where they are. To speak truth in love...not hate.
As Philip Kennicot communicated in his Washington Post article, "After a month of violence, take a deep breath and listen," :
We are all responsible for our own rhetoric. Angry rhetoric is cumulative in its volatility and can inspire mentally ill people to violence. It is essential to examine our own rhetoric for its incendiary power. When possible, it is a good idea to humbly encourage our friends to examine their own rhetoric for its power to incite violence. Telling other people, especially strangers, how they should speak, what they should or should not say, or demanding that they say things as a ritual submission to your worldview will only alienate them. Listening is better than speaking and speaking is better than shouting. No one ever wins an argument on television.
Each one reaches one. Each one teaches one. Each one lifts one.
Huffington Post contributor, Deborah Plummer, shared in her July 10, 2016, article entitled, "Black and Blue Lives Matter: Turning Us and Them into We", THEY and THEM needs to become US and WE.
WE all have a heart. WE all know love. WE all know pain. WE all bleed red blood. And WE all want our families to experience success.
There's only one race - the human race. US.
So why do we hate? Why do we place labels on each other? Do yourself a favor and check out this powerful video, I Am Not Black, You Are NOT White. Not only are the words powerful, but the education and understanding of how labels for races were created is astounding.
And something happens after each tragedy. Have you noticed?
We go through these periods of heightened emotional responses as we did after 9/11, after Ferguson, after the Dallas police shootings. And then the cameras go off. Some other political figure or terrorist event takes the media's attention. And we're right back to where we were. Lulled back into sense of comfort as a country. We accept the wrong that we know in our hearts is not right.
We scab over. And the poison just continues to spread and multiply under the surface.
We have to challenges ourselves to do more. And if you think you don't, you're kidding yourself. We don't even know each other across our differences. We don't speak to truth to power. When do we reach across the aisle? We don't understand - or even care to understand - other people's journeys because we think it doesn't affect us.
We are a part of the problem. We have to take a risk. It is time to move from aspiration to action. To finally start the healing. If not for our generation, then for the sake of the generations to come. I want my grandchildren to believe in the power of diversity. I want them to be accepted for who they are. I want them to have the chance to achieve their dreams. I don't want skin color to be the blocker.
It's up to every one of us to move to action. To have the courageous conversation and do something that may scare us and make us nervous, just because we have not done it before. Stop talking about it and start doing it. We all learn in the doing.
What's the more to do?
No more going back to our segregated neighborhoods and closing the garage door. Speak to your neighbors who don't look like you. Become curious about their cultures. Accept that your way is not the only way. Believe that we are all God's children and are created equally. Honor our country's foundation of democracy. Study history. Accept that white Europeans came to America and killed Native American Indians.
If we don't keep this conversation going, it will die. And with it, our country will die. Our children and grandchildren's country.
So what action do we take today? Right now? I issue you - I issue all of US - a 30-day challenge:
Top Ten Steps to Connect Across Differences:
1. Determine your beginning position on awareness for discrimination. (Do you acknowledge that discriminatory practices exist, or are you in denial?)
2. Explore your own historical roots, beliefs and values. (Acknowledge your worldview. Are you using stereotypes? Are assumptions causing you to miss out on connecting with others?)
3. Be willing to acknowledge that your way is not the only way. Avoid the "defensive position" it's us against them. (Become curious and intentional about understanding the viewpoint and perspective of others. Acknowledge that your culture is one of many great cultures.)
4. Respect the values and beliefs of cultures other than your own. (Get intentional about gaining real life experiences "immersion learning."
5. Become "comfortable being uncomfortable" in learning how to adapt to other cultures.
6. Acknowledge and learn from differences.
7. Ask more questions instead of making more statements.
8. Look at how you spend time away from work. Build personal friendships with people from other cultures where you can create your own "safe" environment for learning.
9. Model the behavior of a leader who has zero tolerance for discrimination, bias, unequal treatment.
10. Teach others, engage in courageous conversations (this will build your convictions, skills and emotional investment).
Step out in a spirit of love. To begin the healing. To leave a legacy of love, not hate. The cameras may be gone, but the challenge of connecting across differences remains.
You have a choice to make. Will you be a part of the problem or a part of the solution? History is waiting!