Past and Present. A community dialogue.

February 21, 2021

To understand the world knowledge is not enough, you must see it, touch it, live in its presence.

—Teilhard de Chardin, Hymn of the Universe

The American Lie.

No. Not the election.

The big lie in the United States is racism only effects people of color.

Heather McGhee’s book is brilliant. She is brilliant. Her book is incredibly researched and synthesized. A must read book for every journalist, politician, policy creator, and student. Actually, you know what? Everyone should read Heather’s book. And she speaks like she writes, clearly, foundationally, and directly. We need to listen. -dayle

NPR/Fresh Air

The heart of McGhee’s case is that racism is harmful to everyone, and thus we all have an interest in fighting it. Drawing on a wealth of economic data, she argues that when laws and practices have discriminated against African Americans, whites have also been harmed. When people unite across racial and ethnic lines, she argues, there’s a solidarity dividend that helps everyone.

Heather McGhee is the former president of the progressive think tank Demos, where she spent much of her career. She holds a BA in American Studies from Yale and a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley. She currently chairs the board of Color of Change, a nationwide online racial justice organization. Her new book is “The Sum Of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone And How We Can Prosper Together.”

Heather McGhee:

This to me is really the kind of parable at the heart of the book. It’s what’s illustrated on the cover. In the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, the United States went on a building boom of these grand resort-style swimming pools. These were the kind that would hold hundreds, even thousands, of swimmers. And it was a real sort of Americanization project. It was to create a, like, bath-temperature melting pot of, you know, white ethnic immigrants and people in the community to come together. It was sort of a commitment by the government to a leisure-filled American dream standard of living. And in many of these public pools, the rule was that it was whites only, either officially or unofficially. And in the 1950s and ’60s when Black communities began to, understandably, say, hey, it’s our tax dollars that are helping to support this public good, we need to be allowed to swim, too, all over the country, particularly in the American South but in other places as well, white towns facing integration orders from the courts decided to drain their public swimming pools rather than let Black families swim, too.

Now, I went to Montgomery, Ala., where there used to be one of those grand resort-style pools and where effective January 1, 1959, not only did they back a truck up and pour dirt into the pool and pave it over, but they also sold off the animals in the municipal zoo. They closed down the entire parks and recreation department of Montgomery for a decade. It wasn’t until almost 1970 that they reopened the park system for the entire city. And I walked the grounds of Oak Park. Even after they reopened it, they never rebuilt the pool. And that, to me, felt like this just tangible symbol of the way that a population taught to distrust and disdain their neighbors of color will withdraw from public goods when they no longer see the public as good.

Interview with Dave Davies on NPR:


The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

“The Sum of Us,” and underlines the importance of having honest conversations about past and present racism at a community level.

Ezra Klein/NYTimes

What ‘Drained-Pool’ Politics Costs America

I asked McGhee to join me on my podcast, “The Ezra Klein Show,” for a discussion about drained-pool politics, the zero-sum stories at the heart of American policymaking, how people define and understand their political interests, and the path forward. This is, in my view, a hopeful book, and a hopeful conversation. There are so many issues where the trade-offs are real, and binding. But in this space, there are vast “solidarity dividends” just waiting for us, if we are willing to stand with, rather than against, each other.

Also from the NYTimes.


The book That Should Change How Progressives Talk About Race

Heather McGhee writes that racism increases economic inequality for everyone.

by Michelle Goldberg

McGhee’s book is about the many ways racism has defeated efforts to create a more economically just America. Once the civil rights movement expanded America’s conception of “the public,” white America’s support for public goods collapsed. People of color have suffered the most from the resulting austerity, but it’s made life a lot worse for most white people, too. McGhee’s central metaphor is that of towns and cities that closed their public pools rather than share them with Black people, leaving everyone who couldn’t afford a private pool materially worse off.

One of the most fascinating things about “The Sum of Us” is how it challenges the assumptions of both white antiracism activists and progressives who just want to talk about class. McGhee argues that it’s futile to try to address decades of disinvestment in schools, infrastructure, health care and more without talking about racial resentment.


“Communicators have to be aware of the mental frameworks of their audience,” McGhee told me. “And for white Americans, the zero-sum is a profound, both deeply embedded and constantly reinforced one.”

This doesn’t mean that the concept of white privilege isn’t useful; obviously it describes something real. “What privilege awareness does, at its best, is reveal the systematic unfairness, and lift the blame from the victims of a corrupt system,” McGhee said. “However, I think at this point in our discourse — also when so many white people feel deeply unprivileged — it’s more important to talk about the world we want for everyone.”

Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Theologian Howard Thurman, from Walter Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms: A Theological Commentary [1984].

Thurman takes what is personal and makes it universal. Walter Brueggemann calls this “the scandal of particularity.” [1] We “get it” in one ordinary, concrete moment and wrestle and fall in love with it there. It’s a scandal precisely because it’s so ordinary. What is true in one place finally ends up being true everywhere.

From Barbara Holmes and her lecture Race and the Cosmos, unpublished Living School curriculum.

As I considered it, the truth of the matter was that we were living within an old story; and a new story needed to be told, but we didn’t have the language for it.  

The old story was of victimization, marginalization, oppression, oppressors; and the new story would see all of us evolving, self-expanding, and finding a new place in this wonderful cosmology that is a reality we have not paid attention to. So, in order to get to that point—and here is where my transformation begins—I had to reconsider what I thought about people, because I had hardened my view of others and who they were and what they meant. I had spent my time raising two little African American boys who had to be taught how to survive in society. In doing that, I taught them to view the world in only one way; and I myself was hardened into a position that either you were with me or you were against me or us. 

All of that had to change. I had to begin to think of us as spiritual beings having a human experience, and not bodily, embodied folks without spirit or soul. . . . That’s a very limited view of humankind, and I wanted to expand the story. . . . 

The physics and cosmology revolution that is 100 years old has not been translated into the ordinary world of any of us, and specifically not in communities of color. The world that scientists describe now is so different than the world that I grew up in or even imagined. According to physicists, this is what the world is like: it is a universe permeated with movement and energy that vibrates and pulses with access to many dimensions. . . . We are all interconnected, not just spiritually or imaginally, but actually . . . and the explicate [or manifested] order that’s all around us makes us think that we’re separate. Finally, I learned that ideas of dominance are predicated on a Newtonian clockwork universe. So, like dominoes, you push one and they all fall down, and everything is in order. But quantum physics tells us that the world is completely different. Particles burst into existence in unpredictable ways, observations affect the observed, and dreams of order and rationality are not the building blocks of the universe. 

A compilation piece: 2-part documentary on PBS, The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song, from executive producer, host, and writer Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

It traces the 400-year-old story of the Black church in America, all the way down to its bedrock role as the site of African American survival and grace, organizing and resilience, thriving and testifying, autonomy and freedom, solidarity and speaking truth to power.

It is now available online.


Cicely Tyson December 19, 1924 – January 28, 2021

Kennedy Center Honors, December 2015.

Harriet & Slave Ancestry

December 1, 2020

Abolitionist Harriet Tubman (1822-1913) stands with a group of formerly enslaved people she helped lead to freedom. Photo: Bettmann/Getty


Russell Contreras

A database that gathers records about the lives of enslaved Africans and their descendants is undergoing a massive, crowdsource-powered expansion to unlock Black Americans’ genealogical histories, organizers tell Russell Contreras.

  • Why it matters: The initiative, to be unveiled today by Enslaved.org, is the latest to reconstruct lost or incomplete timelines and records from the 1600s-1800s, as the U.S. and other nations reckon with systemic racism.

How it works: The general public and outside researchers can submit family histories, runaway slave ads, or documents of purchase to Enslaved.org.

  • Users can search their names and town histories and connect the experiences of enslaved people, from voyages to the changing of names.

First look: Slavery ancestor project expands

Whatthey’resaying: Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor, founder of the National Black Cultural Information Trust, said African Americans have long sought to reclaim their past amidst hostility.

  • “Even after the Civil War, former enslaved people put ads in newspapers looking for lost family members,” she said. “This website is a continuation of that tradition as we look for our past and family but this time in a digital space.

We shouldn’t wait another 10 years to see Harriet Tubman on a $20 bill | Quigley


This is the year we were supposed to get new $20 bills featuring a portrait of Harriet Tubman.  I can’t say it would have been perfect timing because having a woman on American currency was already long overdue, but it sure is a really bad time for a postponement.


The timing was originally planned to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment this month, granting women the right to vote.  The new bill design was shown in 2011 while Barack Obama was still president, and the bill was supposed to hit banks in March 2020.

But even before he was elected, Trump opposed the idea of taking Andrew Jackson off the twenty.  He is one of Trump’s heroes so he proposed putting Tubman on the $2 bill, you know, the one that’s barely in circulation any more.  He felt putting her on any bill was “pure political correctness.”


he still supports Jackson, whose racism wasn’t limited to African-Americans but included Native Americans, as well.  He recently took strong action to ensure Jackson’s statue remains standing just outside the White House.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, almost as soon as he was appointed, agreed to stall.  The women’s suffrage anniversary is coming soon with no Tubman twenties.


Meanwhile, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, where Tubman was born, wrote a letter to Mnuchin urging him to speed up the process.  Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, introduced a bill directing the Treasury to print Tubman’s portrait on all $20 bills starting in 2021.

“The Trump administration’s indefinite postponement of this redesign is offensive to women and girls, and communities of color, who have been excitedly waiting to see this woman and civil rights icon honored in this special way.  The needless foot-dragging on this important effort is unacceptable.  Our currency tells our country’s story and it is past time to honor the contributions of Harriet Tubman,” Shaheen said.

Symbols do matter.  Maybe now more than ever.


‘Rain without thunder and lightening…’

June 10, 2020

The Atlantic

Why Minneapolis Was the Breaking Point

Black men and women are still dying across the country. The power that is American policing has conceded nothing.

Seventeen-year-old Darnella Frazier was on her way out the door to a Memorial Day bonfire on the other side of town when her 9-year-old cousin made a request: Would Frazier walk her to a nearby store? Of course, Frazier replied.

She and her cousin were on their way back home, at the corner of 38th and Chicago, just south of downtown, when Frazier spotted a distraught man sprawled on the pavement. A pile of police officers was holding him down. At least one of the cops seemed to be on top of the man’s neck.

Frazier pulled out her cellphone and hit Record.

Within hours, the whole world had seen the video: Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin driving his knee into the neck of 46-year-old George Floyd, not only until Floyd died but for minutes after his life had been extinguished. What came next was a national crisis.

When I first sat down to begin writing this story, parts of many American cities were on fire and police officers in dozens of places were committing indiscriminate acts of violence—unleashing tear gas, rubber bullets, and worse—against the citizenry they had sworn an oath to serve and protect. Elected officials were pleading for peace as parts of their cities burned and the nation, watching in real time on television, asked “Why?”

Decades earlier, there’d been the determined journalism of Ida B. Wells, whose Memphis newspaper was burned to the ground by white supremacists. Wells is best remembered for her crusading work in the 1890s, which not only documented the frequency of southern lynchings but also provided what we’d now consider data analysis in order to disprove the racist lie that lynchings were happening because black men had a particular lust for and inclination to rape white women. Less well known is that Wells also dispatched herself to the scene of cases of police violence, providing essential scrutiny of an equally American strand of homicidal impunity.

“Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want the WESLEY LOWERY is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and the author of They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement. He is currently a correspondent for 60 in 6, a spin-off of 60 Minutes on the mobile app Quibi.” the former slave Frederick Douglass proclaimed in 1857. “They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”

“This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle,” Douglass continued, before arriving at a more widely quoted sentence: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”

Racism is not to blame, the thinking popular among at least some conservatives goes. It’s the people fighting racism who are the problem. If everyone could just stop talking about all of this stuff, we could go “back” to being a peaceful, united country. No one seems to be able to answer when, precisely, in our history that previous moment of peace, justice, and racial harmony occurred.

WESLEY LOWERY is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and the author of They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement. He is currently a correspondent for 60 in 6, a spin-off of 60 Minutes on the mobile app Quibi.

[Full Article]




August 6, 2019

“In what new skin will the old snake come forth?”

-Frederick Douglass, May, 1865


“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country”

– Abe Lincoln, 1862


“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.

-Toni Morrison, 1975


“Love casts out hate the way light casts out darkness. But love without action is not love. Love without justice is not love. Love without mercy is not love. Love that’s just talk is not love. So how do you do it? The answer isn’t complicated – it’s just confronting. You feed the hungry, help the poor, educate the children, make peace not war. You atone for your mistakes & make amends where you can.”

-Marianne Williamson

From Marianne:

Toni Morrison will be a name and a genius long remembered. May her soul be blessed as it continues on its journey. The world is blessed by what she gave while she was here.


Crossroads of identity.

June 11, 2018

As we saw earlier this year, humans need concrete and particular experiences to learn the ways of love. We don’t learn to love through abstract philosophy or theology. That’s why Jesus came to show God in human form, revealing a face we could recognize and relate to. Let’s first call justice giving everything its full due. Thus, it must begin with somehow seeing the divine (ultimate value) in the other. If we really see someone in their fullness, we cannot help but treat them with kindness and compassion.

Even as we know that every human’s being is inherently and equally good, dignified, and worthy of respect, we cannot ignore our very real differences. The problem is that the ego likes to assign lesser and greater value based on differences. Until all people everywhere are treated with dignity and respect, we must continue calling attention to imbalances of privilege and power. Arbitrary, artificial hierarchies and discrimination are based on a variety of differences: for example, gender, sexuality, class, skin color, education, physical or mental ability, attractiveness, accent, language, religion, and so on.

“Intersectionality” is a rather new concept for most of us to help explain how these attributes overlap. You can be privileged in some areas and not in others. A poor white man has more opportunities for advancement than a poor black man. A transgender woman of color has an even higher risk of being assaulted than a white heterosexual woman.  Someone without a disability has an easier time finding a job than an equally qualified candidate who has a disability.   

Pause for a moment and think about the areas in which you benefit, not because of anything you’ve done or deserve but simply because of what body you were born with, what class privilege you enjoy, what country or ethnicity you find yourself in.

In the book Intersectionality in Action, experienced educators recognize that “admitting one’s privilege can be very difficult,” especially for those who consider themselves tolerant and prefer to not use labels, “calling themselves color-blind, for instance.”

When we finally recognize our unearned benefits—at the expense of others—we may feel ashamed and that may lead us to make excuses for ourselves or overly identify with a less privileged aspect of our identity (for example as Jewish or female). Yet as we move beyond these attachments and emotions, “[We] learn that [our] privileges and disadvantages can coexist, intersect, and impact the way [we] move through different environments.” 

We must work to dismantle systems of oppression while at the same time honoring our differences and celebrating our oneness!

Our differences must first be maintained—and then overcome by the power of love. 

Infinite Love preserves unique truths, protecting boundaries while simultaneously bridging them.

-Richard Rohr, Center for Action


•compound racism


•justice vs status quo

•women’s leadership

‘When the current president rode a wave of white anxiety into the White House in 2016, it was part of a backlash to the Obama presidency, one that revealed an increasingly explicit white nationalism and revived an overtly exclusionary agenda: roll back rights and protections for people of color, immigrants, Muslims, women, and gay and transgender people. Then came the backlash to the backlash: a rapidly spreading awakening that all these peoples, movements and struggles are actually connected in one story. Visionary law professor and change-maker Kimberlé Crenshaw shows that it’s only at the crossroads of our many identities that will we will find a story big enough to embrace the diversity and complexity of our globalized 21st century world.’

Who among the guards?

May 12, 2018

‘Out of Many One’

E Pluribus Unum

13 letters-13 colonies.

This was considered the U.S. motto until the mid ‘1950’s when this nation adopted ‘In God We Trust’, right around the same time the government added, ‘One nation under God’ to the pledge of allegiance.

With the unity of the 13 colonies the country was ideally formed out of many to become one nation.

‘The philosophy of the Declaration, that government is set up by the people to secure their life, liberty, and happiness, and is to be overthrown when it no longer does that, is often traced tot he ideas of John Locke, in his [1689] Second Treatise on Government.

It talked about government and political rights, but ignored the existing inequalities in property. And How cold people truly have equal rights, with start differences in wealth?’ (A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn, p. 73)

The preacher Theodore Parker told his congregation ‘money is this day the strongest power of the nation’ (p. 221).

‘The memory of the oppressed people cannot be taken away’ (p. 443).

Langston Hughes wrote in a 1930’s poem, ‘Lenox Avenue Mural’:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—

and then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over—

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Yes, Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election, at the very least, with disinformation on the Internet—interjecting false ads, the majority of which did not necessary align with a particular candidate, but were motivated by social distruption: race.


Additionally, “900 [race-related spots] were posted after the November election through May 2017”.


In the days after the November 2016 election, an increase in racist slogans and hateful messages was reported, especially in schools. The Southern Poverty Law Center found 867 cases of hateful harassment or intimidation in the 10 days after the Nov. 8 election.

Two recent examples, May 2018:


Shaun King on Twitter: “That is Anthony Wall, in prom clothes, being lifted off the ground and choked by a Warsaw County police officer @WaffleHouse. He had just taken his little sister to prom. And yet again @WaffleHouse called the cops. Anthony, of course was unarmed & non-violent.

Perhaps a more direct caption: #Lynching2018

’People in time, in friendly communities might create a new, diversified, nonviolent culture, in which all forms of personal and group expression would be possible. Men and women, black and white, old and young, could then cherish their differences as positive attributes, not as reasons for domination. New values of cooperation and freedom might then show up in the relations of people, the upbringing of children.

To do all that, in the complex conditions of control in the United States, would require combining the energy of all previous movements in American history—of labor insurgents, black rebels, Native Americans, women, young people—along with the new energy of an angry middle class. People would need to begin to transform their immediate environments—the workplace, the family, the school, the community—by a series of struggles against absentee authority, to give control of these places to the people who live and work there’ (Zinn, p. 639).

Rise like lions after slumber

In unvanquishable number!

Shake your chains to earth, like dew

Which in sleep had fallen on you—

Ye are many; they are few!



April 24, 2018

Here we are.

Nothing has changed. Nothing.

August 4, 2017


The summer of love.


‘The Lost Cause Rides Again’

“HBO’s Confederate takes as its premise an ugly truth that black Americans are forced to live every day: What if the Confederacy wasn’t wholly defeated?”

A promotional poster for D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a NationGetty Images
Ta-Nehisi Coates

Nazi Germany was also defeated. But while its surviving leadership was put on trial before the world, not one author of the Confederacy was convicted of treason. Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was hanged at Nuremberg. Confederate General John B. Gordon became a senator. Germany has spent the decades since World War II in national penance for Nazi crimes. America spent the decades after the Civil War transforming Confederate crimes into virtues. It is illegal to fly the Nazi flag in Germany. The Confederate flag is enmeshed in the state flag of Mississippi.

The symbols point to something Confederate’s creators don’t seem to understand—the war is over for them, not for us. At this very hour, black people all across the South are still fighting the battle which they joined during Reconstruction—securing equal access to the ballot—and resisting a president whose resemblance to Ande Johnson is uncanny. Confederate is the kind of provocative thought experiment that can be engaged in when someone else’s lived reality really is fantasy to you, when your grandmother is not in danger of losing her vote, when the terrorist attack on Charleston evokes honest sympathy, but inspires no direct fear. And so we need not wait to note that Confederate’s interest in Civil War history is biased, that it is premised on a simplistic view of white Southern defeat, instead of the more complicated morass we have all around us.


African Americans do not need science-fiction, or really any fiction, to tell them that that “history is still with us.” It’s right outside our door. It’s in our politics. It’s on our networks. And Confederate is not immune. The show’s very operating premise, the fact that it roots itself in a long white tradition of imagining away emancipation, leaves one wondering how “lost” the Lost Cause really was.

[Full article in The Atlantic]


[And this. From Jimmy Fallon, Mon., Aug. 7th – – “It Ain’t Fair” from ‘Detroit’.]


October 27, 2016


July 11, 2016


Comments from Just Mercy author and Equal Justice Initiative Founder Bryan Stevenson:

“We have a history of racial inequality that we really haven’t adequately acknowledged.”


“And then we codified our racial hierarchy through segregation. We passed the Civil Rights Act but we never dealt with this presumption.”


“Our failure to take seriously this problem is rooted in an unwillingness to acknowledge the damage done by slavery, lynching & segregation.”


‘What are we going to do?’

July 9, 2016

Emphasis on ‘we.’ This is a sentiment, ‘What are we going to do?’ that is being shared again and again after our nation’s week of heartbreak, confusion, frustration, anger, fear, pain, and sorrow. Deep sorrow. Many posts and articles I have read often start with the same words: ‘I don’t know how to express how I am feeling.’


(Interfaith prayer vigil in Dallas the morning after the shootings.)

For the third time in as many days, President Obama has made public comments in response to our nation’s shock and sorrow. Today he said from Poland, ‘We cannot let the actions of a few define all of us’ and that the ‘human responsible for killing five Dallas police officers does not represent black Americans any more than a white man accused of killing blacks at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, represents whites (AP).

When he first learned of the attack, his social media comment from the White House was that he was ‘deeply disturbed.’ My initial reaction to these words were of course, we are all deeply disturbed. What now? What? So many are asking what can we do? Enough. We are hurting. And we want to do something.

“If you are a normal, white American, the truth is you don’t understand being black in America and you instinctively under-estimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk.”

-Newt Gingrich (R), Former US Representative


Author Michelle Alexander writes:

“In recent years, I have come to believe that truly transformative change depends more on thoughtful creation of new ways of being than reflexive reactions to the old. What is happening now is very, very old.  We have some habits of responding to this familiar pain and trauma that are not serving us well. In many respects it’s amazing that we endure at all.  I am inspired again and again by so much of the beautiful, brilliant and daring activism that is unfolding all over the country.  Yet I also know that more is required than purely reactive protest and politics.  A profound shift in our collective consciousness must occur, a shift that makes possible a new America.

I know many people believe that our criminal justice system can be “fixed” by smart people and smart policies.  President Obama seems to think this way.  He suggested yesterday that police-community relations can be improved meaningfully by a task force he created last year.  Yes, a task force.  I used to think like that.  I don’t anymore.  I no longer believe that we can “fix” the police, as though the police are anything other than a mirror reflecting back to us the true nature of our democracy.  We cannot “fix” the police without a revolution of values and radical change to the basic structure of our society.  Of course important policy changes can and should be made to improve police practices.  But if we’re serious about having peace officers — rather than a domestic military at war with its own people— we’re going to have to get honest with ourselves about who our democracy actually serves and protects.”

My sentiments echoes her’s. A task force? Really? We are so far beyond needing yet another task force. When my daughter’s college recently was dealing with unrest regarding social inequalities and racial frustrations, the president decided to cancel classes one day a schedule a day of ‘inclusion.’ There was a microphone. There were a few speakers, but mostly it was a chance for everyone to congregate and share…vent…express. It was cathartic. This day of inclusion is to become an annual event. To check in. Push the ‘pause’ button. Connect.

Maybe we need one of these in our country. Everybody just stop. Nobody goes to work. Nobody goes to school. We all meet in our neighborhoods, our communities and talk. Share. Express. Embrace. Weep. And name our fears. We ask the difficult questions. We acknowledge our sense of ‘other.’ This happened in our country immediately following the terrorists attacks on 9/11 – – until we were invited to ‘go shopping’ (President George W. Bush). And then war. And we lost a timely opportunity to unite and change.

The white police officer in Minnesota who killed the young black man in his car was seemingly petrified with fear after the shooting. He couldn’t move, or drop his gun. His voiced seemed distraught with what he had done, and didn’t know what to do, or how to proceed, his voice violent with emotion.

The girlfriend who was seemingly calm enough to share the event live via social media, was told not to move…to keep her hands where they were…as your young daughter observed, and absorbed, every word and action in the backseat of the car. And while her boyfriend moaned in agony. Until he was silent.

I have thought so much about this woman. How could she remain so calm? I would be crazed. Weeping. Screaming. And it occurred to me as I have been reading Isabel Wilkerson’s book, The Warm of Other Suns/The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, that quite possibly what she had just observed were similar scenarios to those she has observed again and again in her culture and community. Reportedly, her boyfriend who was shot and killed, had been stopped 31 times and charged with more than 60 minor violations – resulting in thousands of dollars in fines – before his last, fatal encounter with the police http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3679678/Man-shooting-death-hand-cop-streamed-live-pulled-31-times-charged-63-times-officers-near-home.html.


As a nation, we are seemingly are able to show unity and prayer in the aftermath of tragedies. It isn’t long before we fall back into our lives, our political ideologies, and our short news cycles with ‘hashtags’ and rants. This time, though, the words are embedded with a plea for action. I heard it in the words at the interfaith prayer vigil in downtown Dallas, blocks away from where President Kennedy had been assassinated in 1963. All creeds and ethnicities were represented. Even watching on television, the energy, the empathy and compassion were palpable.

I heard an interview today, Saturday, July 9th, (NPR) with Poet Claudia Rankine. She spoke about Timothy McVey (Oklahoma City bombing) and Micah Johnson (Dallas shootings) who she said seem to be ‘cut of the same cloth.’ Both had served in the military, and both knew how to deliver carnage with their expertise, weapons, and training, for war.

I mean, you know, for me, Micah Johnson and Timothy McVeigh are not very different. They’re both war vets who were clearly unstable in a certain way and trained in the use of guns. And, you know, why somebody was able to have an automatic gun in their home – I’m not sure why that’s possible.

But in any case, those two gentlemen are the – you know, they’re cut from the same cloth, but in no way does Johnson represent black people in America. And, you know, what we’ve seen with the police is that black people have been seen as one person. And so consequently their level of vengeance against what they assume to be the black body as a criminal body allows them to behave in a way that costs the lives of innocent people. http://www.npr.org/2016/07/09/485356173/poet-claudia-rankine-on-latest-racial-violence

One white. One black. Both angry. And both disenfranchised from their society and country. Where was the disconnect? How do we mend and reach out to those who have lost connection to their humanity to stop senseless carnage and loss?

Author and journalist George Sanders recently said that the only tool we have is ‘empathy.’ Interesting. Can we teach to empathy? What about compassion? Can we teach compassion? Is compassion, or empathy, a natural law?


Harvard Social Ethics professor Mahzarin Banaji spoke to Krista Tippet recently on her podcast, On Being, and shared she prefers the word ‘understanding’ to tolerance. How do we learn to understand each other? How do we move beyond our implicit biases, generations of racist DNA, to seek understanding? She has co-written a new book called, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, and she is the co-founder of the implicit bias research organization Project Implicit. She says,

The good people is extremely important to me. I do believe that we have changed over the course of our evolutionary history into becoming better and better people who have higher and higher standards for how we treat others. And so we are good. And we must recognize that, and yet, ask people the question, “Are you the good person you yourself want to be?” And the answer to that is no, you’re not. And that’s just a fact. And we need to deal with that if we want to be on the path of self-improvement.’


Self-improvement, I offer, is defined as ‘understanding’ of other.


I am a big Krista Tippet fan, read all of her books, including her latest, Becoming Wise.


I have learned so much from her over the many years I have listened to her radio show and podcasts. She is often the starting point for study and research in my dissertation program at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.  She is brilliant and truly a gifted communicator.

Recently, she re-aired a dialogue she had with John A. Powell, a legal scholar and director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at the University of California at Berkeley. He’s previously taught in Africa and across the United States.

She spoke with Powell in 2015 in Minneapolis before a live audience. This has been an especially difficult time for Tippet – – the shooting in Minneapolis took place only a block away from her home. Powell speaks to race, which he equates to gravity, meaning, a very ‘heavy’ topic for many people to face and discuss. His mother and father where sharecroppers in the South and his father is a Christian Minister.

“Scientists say there are probably twelve people in the world that really understand gravity. And I would say there’s only a few more in the world that understand race. But it’s actually incredibly complex once we start peeling it back. I’m old enough to have been born colored. And then I became a negro. And then I became black. And then I became African-American. And then I became afro. And people are just now confused, like, so what are we? You know?And part of the confusion — and each of those terms are significant. But also, race is deeply relational. And it’s interesting if you go back and think about how whiteness was early defined in America. It was defined largely as not black. And so, James Baldwin reminds us that blackness is in whiteness, that whiteness is in blackness, that these are these complicated dances, these — that we — most of us don’t understand.”


I remember being 12 years old in Detroit. He, like most people from the South, he did everything himself. So, he’s fixing the furnace, and it blew up. It cindered all the hair on his body, so he had burns all over his body. We’re driving around the city trying to find a hospital who would accept a black man and getting turned away, and then going on to the next hospital, getting turned away. And as I tell these stories, again, they are sad stories. But when you meet my dad, he just radiates love. I mean, he literally attracts people. And he has this quality of appreciating life, and I feel like a little of that has fallen to me. My interest in social justice — I don’t know where it comes from, really, except I would say part of it’s the family. Part of it’s — to me, it’s an expression of caring, just caring about people and saying that you are connected to people in other life forms and then giving it voice. And I think if we do that, we not only lean into what’s called social justice, but deeply into spirituality and religion as well.


So when we talk about the appropriation of Native American land or when we talk about slavery, we’re not talking about the history of black people, we’re talking about the history of this country.

And Toni Morrison made the observation. She said we’ve had all of these studies on what the institution of slavery has done to mark the black identity. She says it’s about time we look at what it’s done to mark the white identity. It’s America. That’s what slavery is about. It’s about America. And I don’t care if you came here last week or ten days ago, you can’t understand this country without understanding the institution of slavery. It was pivotal.”


US Representative John Lewis (D-Ga), who marched and organized during the Civil Rights Movement, often speaks, as did Martin Luther Kind, Jr., to the ‘beloved community.’ In the context of social alchemy he asks, “What if the beloved community were already a reality? A true reality? And we embodied it before everyone else could see it? He reiterates again and again, we need to teach peace and live non-violence. And to visualize a ‘beloved community.’

We need the ability to have uncomfortable conversations between races and cultures. We need to understand our implicit, or un-conscious biases. Does this happen through policy? Mandates from our government? Or from our communities and each other?

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We cannot have these conversations if we do not connect with each other and ask the tough questions. The questions that seemingly make us vulnerable and uncomfortable.

What are communities doing now? How are we making connections locally?

The City of Seattle has budgeted funds to explore and research implicit bias in their community and police force, training some 10,000 citizens.

In Baltimore, volunteers are working together in a program called ‘Thread’ to change the social fabric of their community by mentoring high school students who are failing school and displaying destructive behaviors. Volunteers commit to work with students over a 10 year period of time. Hundreds of students have been guided and encouraged to find their sense of purpose of contribution. http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/07/09/484053257/prove-that-struggling-high-students-can-succeed

Powell shares an anecdote from a community in Oak Park, Illinois:

“So Oak Park is in Chicago. Chicago’s one of the most segregated areas in the country. Cook County has the largest black population of any county in the United States, and a lot of studying of segregation takes place in Chicago. So here you have Oak Park, this precious little community. And they were liberal whites there, and blacks started moving in. And they were saying, “Look, we actually don’t mind blacks moving in, but we’re concerned that we’re going to lose the value of our home. That’s the only wealth we have. And if we don’t sell now, we’re going to lose.” And it basically said, “If that’s the real concern, not that blacks are moving in, that you’re going to lose the value of your home, what if we were to ensure that you would not lose the value of your home? We’ll literally create an insurance policy that the value of your home — we will compensate you if the value of your home goes down.” And they put that in place.


Think about Katrina. So these examples are all around us, and yet, we don’t tell stories about them. Katrina — the face of Katrina, when you remember it, it was blacks stuck on roofs as the water was rising. What’s not told is that Americans, all Americans, gave to those people. It was the largest civilian giving of one population to another in the history of the United States. So here you had white Americans, Latino-Americans, Asian-Americans trying to reach out to what they saw as black Americans. They were actually saying — they were claiming we have a shared humanity. And they actually did a poll asking people if they were willing to raise taxes to rebuild. 70 percent of Americans said, “Yes, we would tax ourselves to help those people.” The pundits and the politicians ignored it. And so that story simply didn’t get told. The fastest growing demographic in the United States, the fastest growing demographic in United States is not Latinos. It’s actually interracial couples and interethnic couples. That’s people themselves right now, not tomorrow, trying to imagine a different America, trying to say, “I can love anyone. I can be with anyone.”

There is a lot we can do, if we come together and have the conversations that our difficult to have. I am hopeful. No more task forces. We need to find a way to dialogue, to question, to understand in our own communities and neighborhoods.


“People are looking for community. Right now, though, we don’t have confidence in love. You mentioned love earlier. We have much more confidence in anger and hate. We believe anger is powerful. We believe hate is powerful. And we believe love is wimpy. And so if we’re engaged in the world, we believe it’s much better to sort of organize around anger and hate. And yet, we see two of the most powerful expressions, certainly Gandhi, certainly the Reverend Dr. King — and I always remind people he was a reverend. It wasn’t just Dr. King. Even though he came out of a violent revolution — Nelson Mandela — he just — again, I met him personally — he just exuded love. And as you know, he had a chance to leave prison early. He refused to unless it included structuring the country. He actually tried to actually lean into a notion of beloved community. He actually didn’t want the blacks to control or dominate the whites. He wanted to create — so his aspiration — and he’s loved. Even today, he’s loved in South Africa, and he’s loved around the world.”

So I think part of it is that we don’t have to imagine doing things one at a time. And the other thing is that it’s not that we necessarily get there, but we claim life, our own and others. We actually celebrate and engage in life. And so, to me, it’s like — it’s not like, “How do we get there?” It’s like, “How do we live?”

‘…what we’re finding now in the last 30 years is that much of the work, in terms of our cognitive and emotional response to the world, happens at the unconscious level.

We move from race, the discussion of race — it was partially because we were trying to move from the Jim Crow era and the white supremacy era. And we said, “OK, that’s bad.” So to notice race is bad, so let’s not notice it anymore.’


The human condition is one about belonging. We simply cannot thrive unless we are in relationship. I just gave a lecture on health. And if you’re isolated, the negative health condition is worse than smoking, obesity, high blood pressure — just being isolated.


So we need to be in relationship with each other. And so, when you look at what groups are doing, whether they are disability groups or whether they’re groups organized around race, they are really trying to make us — a claim of, “I belong. I’m a member.” So if you think about Black Lives Matter, it’s really just saying, “We belong.” How we define the other affects how we define ourselves.

Tippet’s foundational question:

‘We’re not defined by the worst that happens but we struggle to know how to rise to our best; so what if we opened the question of race to the question of belonging?’


Carolyn Myss believes we can be the change in our own communities simply by being a light. This light, she believes, is enough to create change. We lead by example in our language and our  behaviors, allowing a sense of belonging.

Again, Powell:

‘We’re talking about what I call a circle of human concern, a circle of concern for all life, human life, and our planetary life.’

Michelle Alexander:

“I think we all know, deep down, that something more is required of us now.  This truth is difficult to face because it’s inconvenient and deeply unsettling.  And yet silence isn’t an option.  On any given day, there’s always something I’d rather be doing than facing the ugly, racist underbelly of America.  I know that I am not alone.  But I also know that the families of the slain officers, and the families of all those who have been killed by the police, would rather not be attending funerals.  And I’m sure that many who refused to ride segregated buses in Montgomery after Rosa Parks stood her ground wished they could’ve taken the bus, rather than walk miles in protest, day after day, for a whole year.  But they knew they had to walk.  If change was ever going to come, they were going to have to walk.  And so do we.”



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