Monday, July 22, 2013

3 Things Necessary To Truly Discuss Race in America

Unless you live under a rock, there was no escaping a discussion on the topic of race in the United States last week. Our country has a painful and long history of racial discord and while there have been many strides made, there is still a long long way to go.

Nothing tells us this more than when we have a lightening rod event such as the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the February 2012 death of  Trayvon Martin, an unarmed  17 year old,  last week. The emotions on all sides of these issues run deep and wide.  Both sides are asking painful questions:

Are all white people racists?

Are all black males criminals?

Could I have been George Zimmerman? Am I biased, bigoted or prejudiced because of race?

Could I have been gunned down just for walking down the street in a hoodie? Could that have been my son?

What about the violence in black communities? Why aren't they mad about that?

Why is the country split on this decision about George Zimmerman? Once again along racial lines?

I don't have the answers to all the above questions but like everyone else, I have an opinion. An opinion reached by the perspective of my experience in this country to date.  Regardless my opinion on the Florida case, my contribution to the overall race discussion is a follows: We will only resolve race relations in our country by building genuine relationships across racial lines.

This whole conversation on race changes when three things are present; trust, respect and love. It is impossible to have a honest dialogue about race with someone if all three of the above are not present. This applies even within the same racial circles.

Trust equal safety, safety from fear of judgement or retaliation. When you can speak your mind to someone you trust, you don't have to preface anything. You can say what you need to say as well as hear what someone else has to say, the trust opens the door to honesty.

Respect equals validation and validation empowers more discussion. When you respect someone, it only means you give them the freedom to express especially when you disagree. Respects allows the space to dig deeper and deeper into issues and that space produces productive opportunities for resolution around the sensitive topics related to racial issues.

Love wraps it all up. Where there is love there is no fear. Where there is love there is a genuine interest in preserving the relationship above all else. When you love someone, you can empathize with them easier and empathy allows you to feel what they feel. It is difficult to say destructive words of generalization that may fall on someone you actually know, care about and love.

The next time you find yourself in a discussion about race, run the test of trust, respect and love across the relationship before you utter or type one word.

We can change America, one relationship at a time.

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