The following is an edited version of an earlier post that remains relevant today. In the spirit of the Christmas season, it is worth a revisit.
Last night, my wife and I attended one of a series of “talks” around improving racial relations. It is a weekly chat sponsored by a multi-faith group based in our city. In essence, it is facilitated small group and large group discussions on breaking down barriers and listening to others who do not look like you do. It was well done and very meaningful.
To hear stories about small and large examples of racism is very important. To hear about how assumptions can be made and, if not corrected, can be become more concrete in the eyes of the beholder. Children learn lessons whether you want them to or not, even when you try to do the right thing. So, it is imperative to have open conversations about treating people like you want to be treated and listening to comments, so that they can be reinforced or amended.
Yet, it is we adults that need to do better. A few themes we discussed include:
– do not indict a group for the actions of a few;
– recognize that small slights can be hurtful, as well;
– try to walk in another person’s shoes; understand that a white person has more liberty to go anywhere, while a black man, even when dressed-up, faces more restrictions and risk;
– shine a light on hateful speech or behavior; tolerance must be viewed toward a greater good, so it is OK to be less tolerant of those who use words to demean and diminish;
– speak up and speak out to people who share your skin color, ethnicity, religion or politics who are indicting others who are different just because they don’t look, think or worship as you do (this is especially true if those who are condemning others are in leadership roles);
– be the change you want to see and see people for whom they are; and
– recognize that racial injustice is also the result of a larger poverty issue, which affects people of all colors.
There are many more lessons that were conveyed during the session, but one of my takeaways is this is religion at its finest. Welcoming, including and helping. Let me end with one more tidbit on how religion can help provide solutions and create a welcoming dialogue. Walk the talk. Words are easy. The person who gets up out of his or her chair to help people is admirable. The person who tells someone they not do appreciate hateful criticism of others is steadfast.
Jesus said it so well in his Golden Rule. Treat others like you want to be treated. If we do this, we are way ahead in the game. And, if anyone thinks they are better than others, the same guy said something about “he who is without sin, can cast the first stone.” So, welcome, include and help.