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How To Be Mature Enough for Racial Reconciliation
It is time for us to soar!
Less Talk, More Action
In the spring of 1997, I attended a racial reconciliation workshop at First Presbyterian Church in Evanston, IL, and participated as one of the facilitators of a small group. I found the entire ideal inviting and arrived ready for excitement. I pondered whether the participants would really want to do the work necessary to truly reconcile. Our first semi-assignment was to turn to someone and ask the question, “What are you hoping to learn during this workshop?” The white man I asked said he didn’t understand why Blacks were so angry. I told him I came to find out why he didn’t understand. Thus, the problem.
So much of what it takes to reconcile has to do with the understanding, that there has to be a sure footedness that is unmatched by any need to retreat from the reality that reconciliation is difficult. My group was very silent and many looked apprehensive. After the session was over, the workshop coordinators asked for feedback from each group. As people from each group spoke, it was obvious that many people were frightened. The going theme was, “I don’t want a Black/White person to think I am just trying to get to know them because they are Black/White. I don’t know what people’s intentions are and I don’t want to be misunderstood.” These statements unsettled me. I openly said: “Feel free to approach me. I intended to be approached; that is why I am here. Introducing yourself to, and getting to know a Black person, is done the same way you would get to know anyone else.”
After returning to my seat, I realized I was angry because number one we were in Evanston, one of the most diverse communities in the country. Many of the individuals in the room chose to live in Evanston because of its diverse population or have lived their entire lives there. Number two, we are all supposed to be mature adults, and I could clearly see that some of the participants had chosen to fall back on strategies used in adolescence to keep from extending themselves.
At 13 years old, I weighed 200 pounds. By the time I entered high school, I weighed 220 pounds. Needless to say, I was not accepted because of my size and weight. There was nothing inside of me that allowed me to believe I was truly inferior because of my weight. I took, at the time, what I thought to be a very mature approach to the problem and intentionally reached out to people who would have otherwise ignored me. I even befriended my critics and enemies. I decided I would treat them as I wanted to be treated and believe it or not, it worked. Although many were often puzzled by me; they found me to be genuine and honest. Unlike the other obese individuals at my high school who were left out, I was very popular and achieved a lot of success at being accepted for who I was at the time.
For many, maturity is an abstract term. They cannot quite figure out what it is and how to apply its principles. There are seven characteristics that are common to the mature individual:
1. Maturity is the ability to base a judgment on the Big Picture—the Long Haul. Many people have asked me why I devote my time to issues that “cannot be solved,” like racism. My reply is I am doing it for my children. After I am gone, they have to be left with the belief that change will come through effort and truth.
2. Maturity is the ability to stick with a project or situation until it has been completed. This is the hardest thing for most people to do. Especially the immature individual. A topic like racism is sure to run this person away once effort to understand is called for.
3. Maturity is the capacity to face unpleasantness, frustration, discomfort and defeat without complaint or collapse. This factor of maturity was lacking in many of the people I saw at the workshop. Our society’s inability to deal with the aforementioned is a major reason why racism is still so prevalent today.
4. Maturity is the ability to live up to your responsibilities and keep your word. No one, not even Blacks, have been willing to take on the responsibility for the continued participation in the beliefs of racism. Dependability and personal integrity go hand-in-hand; racism still exists because of the decline in integrity and continued demise of humanity.
5. Maturity is the ability to make a decision and stand by it. Action requires courage. It is great to make a good showing, but it is often more comfortable to retreat to comfortable defense mechanisms when the going gets tough.
6. Maturity is the ability to harness your abilities and your energies and do more than is expected. Right now there is a lot of chatter going on. The black talking heads, (Dr. Watkins, Dr. Dyson, Rev. Sharpton, Rev. Jackson) all want to hold forums on race. They feel the need to consistently talk about what shoulda, coulda, woulda, mayba, be done, when at this time, action is required. Blacks need to go into business. We need to rebuild our communities, we need to educate our children, and we need to learn to love and respect each other before we can expect anyone else to do it. This must be done whether we “talk” about it or not.
7. Maturity is the art of living in peace with that we cannot change. This is hard for even the mature individual. Especially when it comes to racism. Because racism is a disease that denies rightful individuals freedoms that are set aside for a privileged few, it takes a strong person to recognize, develop and maintain peace.
By accepting the reality that people are different whether Black and White, or otherwise, we can come to a meeting of the minds. Racism truly is an individual choice. A racist makes the choice upon every meeting of someone different, to be open to the difference or prejudiced against it. We must stop hiding behind habitual failure to solve the “race problem” by resorting to stereotypical methods of getting acquainted. We must employ directness, honesty, integrity, but most of all humanity. We can no longer afford to sidestep the fundamental truth that to succeed at any task we must face the difficulties head on and not find excuses that lead us away from reaching our goal of racial reconciliation.
This idiotic insisting on President Obama show how black he is on the job is ridiculous. I want to cry when I listen to these guys. I have no idea where they are coming from. We all know the one place that is not tolerant of too much blackness is in the workplace, yet there is a constant cry for this man to jeopardize his position for a few who are obviously confused about what it really means to be black in America. President Obama is where he is because he is mature enough to live his life as a grown ass man. We must stop this need to know who is on our side. He is the President of the United States of America; all we should really require is the he is Red, White and Blue enough. That he does his best to lead America towards a consciousness less bent towards separation based on pigmentation. We must trust him to understand the needs of all Americans and do his best to see that our quality of life is not diminished by partisan politics and lack of social awareness. He is our President and deserves the respect any other before and after deserves. He has only been on the job a year and in many ways race relations has jumped back fifty.
In our American society of immediate gratification, self-medication and the ever-ending search for individuality, my belief that many of us have not yet reached a level of maturity that displays the wisdom needed to tackle racism, is right on track. The forced integration of old has not helped at all. Integration has revealed to us that children cannot solve the race dilemma. I have concluded that we must toughen up and resort to the pioneering attitudes of America’s founders. We must be willing to work and suffer the blows of defeat time and time again and remember that the pearl does not grow without much initial agitation.