Saturday, July 25, 2009

Talking Over a Beer :-D

I am floored -- and thrilled -- by this morning's news concerning a topic I wrote about in my last blog entry. Yesterday, I used the Gates / Crowley encounter as a case study to illustrate how voices of negative "ghosts" can poison present opportunities.

This morning it is reported that none other than President Obama himself has invited Gates and Crowley to the White House for a beer and to discuss what happened between them, to provide a "teachable moment" to our nation. Obama is quoted as saying:

My hope is that as a consequence of this event, this ends up being what's called a teachable moment, where all of us -- instead of pumping up the volume -- spend a little more time listening to each other and trying to focus on how we can generally improve relations between police officers and minority communities. That instead of flinging accusations, we can all be a little more reflective about what we can do to contribute to more unity. Lord knows, we need it right now.

What a great guy! President Obama surely does bring a fresh perspective.

Judge Sonya Sotomayor has been criticised for her remarks that a "wise Latina woman" might make a better decision than a White man. I understand (and agree with) the sympathy she was trying to express. It's not that one perspective alone is "better". Rather, there is tremendous value in the diversity of viewpoints that different perspectives bring to bear on a challenge.

Obama's perspective on race exemplifies the value that diversity of perspective brings to the table. It takes courage to forge those differing perspectives into a coherent and unified view of reality. But this is where true peace begins.

The racial division in our country has festered for too long. Unfortunately, Race and Racisim has become a taboo subject to discuss in polite company: deeming Race too sensitive as a topic, people have been too frightened to talk about it. Last year when I wrote candidly in my blog about searching for a school district where there was diversity but where my own child would not be targeted for discrimination, for example, some readers of my China blog wrote me to urge caution about even discussing such subjects. I disagree with this notion of being ruled by caution, if caution prevents us from addressing an ailment that could be healed if it were addressed honestly.

The problem is, that although the walls have been cleaned up and whitewashed, the residue of the soot remains. Until all the soot has been thoroughly addressed and removed, the house will still have an odor. When we only gloss over unpleasant realities, ignoring them and pretending that they don't exist, we are not peacemakers but rather we are peace fakers. I truly admire President Obama's courage, and his confidence, to wade into the waters of race relations and to facilitate communication that leads to authentic racial peace.

In the case of healing the wounds from racism, talking is a really good step! But for candid discussions with my friends from all kinds of racial backgrounds, I might not even have been aware of the challenges. I'm sure I continue to have my own blind spots, but I can't ever fix them unless I first become aware of them.

So, how refreshing it is that we have a President who is not afraid to venture into the area of talking about, addressing, and healing race relations in our nation. I'm so glad we have a leader who is not afraid to talk.


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