Martin Luther king Jr

Accidental Racism

I am a racist. You are a racist. We are all racists.

We all harbor covert thoughts about people, communities, religions, and disabilities.

  • So you are following a Hummer with a Scientology bumper sticker
  • Or a car full of dark complected youth who have a woofer which is vibrating your dental work
  • Men with turbans are boarding your plane
  • Or you see a gay couple publicly expressing their affections

Yeah, whatever pushes your buttons—you think bad thoughts—admit it!

You would never say anything, but “those people  should_________!” Apples and oranges

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the Ku Klux Klanner but the moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. Excerpts from MLK’s Birmingham Jail Letter

Please do not be one of those people who say they are colorblind. That all people are equal in your eyes. Even if that were true, your blindness would mean you do not care about difference. And difference is everything.

Our greatest vulnerability is that we do not see our fates tied to others. That we believe that our comfort, safety and success can be achieved independently from other people different from us and our families.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.

The brutal truth is we have minimized our direct experiences with difference. Economic diversity in our lives is from the news. We have little tolerance for difference. The last time we had truly diverse friends was in college.

The consequences of these subtle, multiplied, and layered decisions are the increasing inability to relate to the world outside of our bubbles. Our networks are sanitized, pasteurized and free of “unwanted” elements. 

We struggle with relating to the I Can’t Breathe campaigns, Immigration Reform, Muslim hate crimes, Minimum wage protests…... 

We don't discriminate.

We are not prejudiced.

We care about all of our fellow human beings.

We have lost touch with reality.

We are accidental racists.

There are so many studies that show how prevalent our discriminatory inclinations are. 

Step one is to own our racism.

Now before you launch into your well-rehearsed denial speeches, listen to yourself and look around yourself. “Some of your best friends…..Really! Now why is it that your church, your kids’ schools, your place of employment, your golf club, your circle of friends do not reflect the communities we live in?

Admit it we have not done enough.

Our kids grow up in segregation and despite our best intentions they become accidental racists.

Susan Fiske’s extensive research at Princeton shows that as income rises we see poor people as objects and not as humans—mostly because they are a foreign and unknown population.

We watch as the world turns on Muslims again. -Treating a giant diverse population as a monolithic group. A group we do not know. Racism at its best.

Conjures up Nazi Germany or WWII with the internment of Japanese Americans…

This has been going on for a long time--too long.

In 1946 (Martin Luther King Jr. was about 17 and 18 years before Civil Rights), Albert Einstein was frustrated and angry and gave a speech at Lincoln University called, The Negro Question-- Here are some excerpts:

Many a sincere person will answer: "Our attitude towards Negroes is the result of unfavorable experiences which we have had by living side by side with Negroes in this country. They are not our equals in intelligence, sense of responsibility, reliability."

The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition.

What, however, can the man of good will do to combat this deeply rooted prejudice? He must have the courage to set an example by word and deed, and must watch lest his children become influenced by this racial bias.

I do not believe there is a way in which this deeply entrenched evil can be quickly healed. But until this goal is reached there is no greater satisfaction for a just and well-meaning person than the knowledge that he has devoted his best energies to the service of the good cause.

Sadly, these words ring true today. And “Negroes” could be replaced with many communities which combat our racism today.

It is well established that diversity is not a nice to have but a necessity to compete, survive, and evolve. Mother Nature knows this well! Investment portfolios require it. The American Medical Association studies prove that life expectancy is extended as much as 9 years for those that cultivate diverse social networks. But to attain and then maintain diversity professionally and socially takes courage, work, and vigilance.

Evaluate your network. Not talking just about ethnicity, but religious, economic, ability, sexual preference diversity. How will you reach out and build a diverse network?

What example by word and deed are we setting, for our children?

If the tables you sit at just look like you, I do not care how smart, witty you are, it is limited table of opportunities. 

So what are you going to do honor the legacy of Dr. King? More important, what are you going to do to make sure your kids and all of our kids don’t end up to be racists like us?

Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Einstein

 Thanks for reading. John

 


MLK's Dream about Mentoring and Networking

“America is essentially a dream, a dream as yet unfulfilled. … Through our scientific and technological genius we have made of this world a neighborhood; now, through our moral and spiritual development, we must make of it a brotherhood. In a real sense, we must all learn to live together as brothers, or we will all perish together as fools.”  Martin Luther King Jr. 1967250px-Martin_Luther_King_Jr_NYWTS

My week was filled with inspiration and sobered by empathy and responsibility. As we celebrate Dr King's 81st birthday, I was reminded of these inspirational words that are still so relevant and timeless. The images and news from Haiti humbles us and triggers our human desire to help. We all think about our common bond with each other, whether from Haiti or next door. The acts of kindness and generosity that are now occurring restore our faith in humankind. People from around the world are giving of themselves in selfless ways. Why does it take a tragedy to bring out the best in us?

It now appears that Haiti death toll may approach 30 Katrinas! It's hard to fathom. (If you are still looking for charities to help Haiti CLICK HERE)

I was with a number of UCLA students this week, trying to help them examine their options for life after college. Trying to assist them think through the relevance of college majors and career paths. Ahhhh to be a student again, safe from the realities of the cruel world. I never discount the anxiety of youth struggling with uncertainty and debt. But we concluded that ultimately listening to your heart and not your parents will help define one's life path. :)

"But listening to their heart may be too abstract. How can I help the students calm down and be less stressed out about their futures?", asked a student peer counselor. There needs to be pragmatism and focus to our education. All of us worry about whether what we are doing is the right thing. Whether what we are "majoring in" will give us the best outcomes. However, students and just about all of us need to ingest the same advice on a daily basis. Watch the tv, read the papers, pay attention. No matter what our circumstances, we see how fortunate we are to have choices and chances. We are so blessed to have the freedom to think and act. And to have the  great response-ability to help others. As students of life, we need to appreciate what we have not what we don't. Young people often think that choice is the enemy of commitment. And do not find joy and enjoyment in choice, and get caught up in the drama of it all. Choice is the goal of a democracy. Choice and freedom come with an obligation to cherish them and make the most of them. What we "major" in is of lesser consequence than what we decide to to do with our lives. Neither our majors or our jobs define us. How do we express our love and care for others? How do we help one another? In the end, that is how we will evaluate our lives and our level of success.

Social-network Lets take this frame of mind to be generous and supportive of the people of Haiti and also apply it to our networks, our offices, our churches, our circle of friends, and our families--everyday. Lets continue to reach out and mentor each other. Help each other find meaningful work and fulfillment. Assist one another to get through these trying times. Turning these neighborhoods into brother and sister hoods will take a lot of work and effort. As our hearts and minds go out to our brothers and sisters in Haiti, it should embolden our resolve to also help our brothers and sisters at home. As we listen to our hearts, we must get well beyond our feelings of empathy and goodwill, we must act upon them. Lets translate the emotional connection we feel to "strangers" in a foreign land, to people we know and love. It is this ongoing process of strengthening our relationships and connecting to new ones that will make Dr. King's dream a reality.

Oh deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome some day.

Thanks for reading. John