Monday, April 22, 2013

A Film, A Desert and America's Poor Relationship With Race

I had the pleasure of seeing the new Jackie Robinson biopic "42" over this past weekend with my family. It was a great depiction of the rookie season of baseball great Jackie Robinson with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. It was the first time in a long time that I heard other folks in the theater react and verbally respond to characters in a movie. It was also the first time I'd ever experienced people clapping at the conclusion of a film.

Well done, Warner Bros.

I also applaud Warner Bros and this film for helping me as I have recently come through what I'm calling a "desert" experience personally. My "desert" from the end of February until the end of March was an intensive time of introspection for me as I was challenged to my core - almost daily -  on every thought, action and belief I have related to race, gender, poverty and struggle. The external events that came in rapid fire seemed almost unreal as it was playing out. There were a few days when I literally cried out to God for respite... rest.

But alas that respite did not come. It was clear to me 1/2 way through the 30 days that this "season" I was experiencing had a purpose. It was amply clear that I needed to re-evaluate my response, my reaction to everyday conversations, quips and thoughts related to race. No longer could I ignore this or downplay it. I was literally being faced with extreme racially charged situations regularly to refine my thoughts and my heart about race.

It was rich and seeing "42" this weekend sealed for me what one of my conclusions had revealed late last month.

We have come very far with race relations in the United States but we have painfully far to go. 

Nothing made that more evident than watching this film set in 1947. Dare I say, it was simpler then. Dare I say, at least you KNEW what you were facing in the way of biases, discrimination and outright refusal to extend equality. Today is it much more subtle. Much more covert. And worst, it is vehemently denied now.

People go out of their way to say how unbiased they are all while their daily actions and interactions reinforce just how deeply biased they are in reality. People argue tooth and nail how much "better" it is today for black Americans in the United States. And it is.

But it is still not where it should be.

And it's up to all of us to to make it better. My "desert" experience showed me where I have areas of opportunity to help. I am grateful I was open to learning. Grateful to see 42 with my family to continue the discussion started in our household before.

What will you do?

Are you willing to have open honest conversations about race with others?

Can we take a step toward true reconciliation in our country without those conversations?

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