“What doesn’t heal gets passed down.” – Steven Furtick
Let me begin by confessing that I am a proud black man (been one my whole life), living in an intercultural home where relationship has trumped race. I have two degrees and an amazing job. I have spent nearly my entire adult life attempting to lift up humanity. From urban education to economic development, I have endeavored to “defy the statistics” that seem to be presented to me everyday, ageless and ever green about how my demographic is becoming a permanent underclass. Even though some would say that I have in fact, defied the odds, and find myself able to interact and engage with people of every hue and from every background, I still find bigotry and racism in its various forms (both covert and overt) every day of my life. And when I’m not looking for it; it finds me. I also must admit that I believe that we can do something to change the human condition in America, which is why I write this post. I refuse to be among the silent majority whose silence has become deafening.
Our Nation has a critically deep wound. Throughout the history of our beloved United States we have cut and punctured, slashed and gouged, stabbed and sliced the fabric of our National culture and conscious over one issue: race. Although not necessarily in school, we all have heard about the atrocities that this Country has inflicted upon people of color, more specifically African-Americans. We hate to talk about it, and we should. The genesis of our Nation and its subsequent track record is horrific at best on this issue. There has always been, as Dr. King stated, “two Americas.” One America is flourishing with the ‘milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity.’ While the other America has a ‘daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the buoyancy of hope into the fatigue of despair.’ It’s been like this since the founding of our beloved Nation and remains that way today. Sad, yet true. The history is REAL. The present is REAL. And the connective tissue of unhealed pain is also VERY REAL.
I am a huge fan of those who have given their lives to attempt to cover our Nation’s wound with the scab of love, truth and inclusivity. Their work has NOT gone unnoticed and should be honored as nothing short of selfless heroism. However, in a real human sense we as people are a metaphor for a human body. When your get a significant wound in your arm, you immediately grab some kind of cotton material that is soft enough and pure enough to relieve the pain. Next, we seek out some type of antiseptic to clear the wound of any lingering harmful bacteria that could worsen the situation. If we skip this step, our efforts toward healing the wound could prove futile. Finally, we look for a covering* that binds the skin and covers the wound so that it has the opportunity to heal. (*by the way, band-aids have come a long way in multi-cultural options for people who aren’t tan; I’m grateful for that)
Much like a wound in the body, we as an American family have deep wounds about race that are full of the bacteria of fear, ignorance, bigotry, systematic inequality and prejudice. The more ugly truth is that things in our life that are not healed are typically passed down. Let’s tell the truth; we pass our attitudes, fears and world views on to the next generation. Maybe not explicitly, but we gain our sense of self through our interactions with other people. Conversely, we gain our sense of others through our interactions with them (or not with them). Think about our circles of friendship and influence, do they look like our values of inclusivity and equality? We learned more about race from our families and communities of origin than we realized simply through the way our lives were lived. We live those values and histories whether we admit it or not. You see, every time there is another clinched purse in a store, or joke at the water cooler, or job promotion denial, or youth on youth killing, or police/citizen interaction gone wrong, or fatality from violence, or fatal choking of a young man selling cigarettes, or visual of the disparities in education, health, household income, prison population, referrals into the special education system, mediated public crucifixions of one group and the simultaneous excusing of others in the same scenario OR God forbid, a church bombing…we rip away another piece of the scab that attempts to cover our National wound. That’s just sad.
Sadder yet? WE sit back and watch it happen, and say NOTHING. We sit in the rooms with the jokes in silence. We join the locker room conversations and even suggest that “people pull themselves up by their own bootstraps” like we did. Knowing full well that it is a bit disingenuous to ask a bootless person whose never had boots to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. We join in the foolishness and hatred in the stands at our children’s games when the ‘suburban’ school plays the ‘urban’ school. We allow political talking heads (not to be confused with the true public servants fighting to make a difference) to make decisions that we KNOW are unjust, unfair and nefariously created to not only become the law of land, but we keep re-electing them and empowering them! Every instance, every opportunity missed, continues to put the healing process in reverse. So much in so, the newest TIME magazine cover put up a picture of a horrific interaction between law enforcement and a young black male. You literally did not know whether that picture came from 1964 or 2014. That tells us that there’s something more to solving of the race issue than the election of an African-American President. The healing of our Nation and communities requires the very same thing the healing of a human wound requires:
Cover: just like the cotton ball we use to cover our wound and relieve the pain, we need to lead with love in our lives. I’m not talking about the touchy/feely platitudes or Kum Ba Yah moments at diversity training; I’m talking about LOVE. The force that requires you to ask the question “how is what I’m doing or saying going to impact ALL of those around me?” The power that makes us inquire as to whether or not ‘it’ would be ok if it was me and my family? It is NOT the love that people have been blaming on Jesus lately. Love (Jesus) was found sitting with the woman at the well demonstrating a heart of compassion and invitation, not damning and discriminating people to hell. Love compels people to healing, hate and bigotry repels people to tribes and silos, each one set to destroy the other. This is the LOVE that forces us to love ourselves enough to care about the ways in which our actions bring healing or destruction. We need an immediate covering of love in our daily interactions with one another.
Antiseptic: In order to move into healing a wound needs to clean out the particles that have been infecting the wound. We need to have the courage to close our eyes, take a deep breath and poor the antiseptic of truth on this issue. Things are NOT as they should be. This generation did not create the problem or the system, yet we must admit (with tears in our eyes) that through our silence and indifference we have allowed the problem to persist and the wound to deepen. We are called to have REAL, solution-focused conversations about the disparities in every major measurable area in our communities, and courageously work toward the closing of those gaps, TOGETHER. Even if it means, being unapologetically intentional about working with a specific group of people (no matter what proposition 2 says).
Binding: Much like the band-aid, inclusivity serves as our protection. We’ve been actively allowing for segregation, separation and confusion permeate every generation of American history, and it has gotten us to this sad place in our history. Why not try inclusion? I want to endeavor in my life to err on the side of inclusion. The moment I fall into the trap of elitism and bigotry, I am admitting that my life and my God are too small. By falling for the bacteria of hate I am confirming that there is not enough grace for every American soul. Without ALL of us (yes, I’m talking about YOU and ME), we will never be able have the kind of environment necessary for healing. We must commit to coming together, even when its easy to run away. The truth of the matter is, we needed each other to play out the atrocities of our past, we will need each other to bind ourselves together under the connective tissue of healing humanity.
What does not heal, get’s handed down. What wounds are open for you? What are we passing down? Have we sat back and watched in the safety of silence? What are we going to do TODAY to make it right? It’s our time, and I’m afraid that if we don’t do something now, it might be too late.
Peace, Blessings and Healing,