July 22, 2010
During the past two weeks, Americans has once again been forced to confront our intractable issue of race—live and in living color. Regular readers of my column are well aware of my writing modus operandi. My job is not to make you agree with what I write, but rather to make you get beyond your personal biases (and we all have them) and to consider another point of view.
If, after having read my column, it motivates you to discuss what I wrote with a friend or colleague, then I have done my job! I would that all men thought like me, but since mortals are not quite ready for such a responsibility, I must continue to challenge my readers to be better than they are.
Last week I wrote about the NAACP and their resolution to label the Tea Party as racist (“The NAACP Has Racism Down To A Tea (Party)”). My point was that we must call out racists whomever and wherever they are in order to speak with moral authority.
This week, race is yet again being played out in black and white. A Black political appointee from the Obama administration was fired from her job based on a video tape that had been altered. The altered tape made the appointee appear to be spewing out some of the most vile, vitriolic rhetoric imaginable. She was promptly fired, only to find out that the tape was altered and that her comments were not really what they were being projected as being (She has since received an apology from the Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture and offered another job). If you want to know more, google Shirley Sherrod.
But, here’s the point; despite all of America’s problems, we still are a great country. We are not a perfect union; but in union, we can walk down the road toward perfection.
The first letter in union is U! How appropriate. The next letter is n. Then the next letter is i. It’s only when you n i come together that we have the beginning of a more perfect union. Without u-n-i, there can be no union.
I think we have spent enough time on the NAACP and the Tea Party debate. I think we need to lower the rhetoric surrounding Shirley Sherrod and her being fired from her job at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Inspite and despite all of our problems in the U.S., everyone seems to be trying to enter the U.S.; not leave the U.S. The reason is quite simple. When Americans focus on what unites us and not what divides us, then and only then can we begin to see the more perfect union.
Remember how we united after 9/11? For a moment, there was no Black or white---just Americans! People hugged and talked with people heretofore ignored. Why did it take a tragedy for this type of outpouring to take place?
When I saw the altered video of Shirley Sherrod’s comments, I was red with anger, then when the truth came out about the video being altered I became white with embarrassment, and then I felt kind of blue until I asked myself, what are you going to do?
So, this is my challenge to my readers. I want you to put the u-n-i back in union today. I want you to go to a co-worker that you totally disagree with politically and have a conversation with him to see what you can learn from him. You might just find that you both agree on one or two things. I want you to go to someone today from a different race and learn something about their country or culture. I want you to take the time to stop and have a conversation with a homeless person on the street. You just might be surprised to find yourself talking with an accomplished scientist, former recording artist, or former professional athlete.
Get out of your comfort zone and do something different. Think a new thought. Take a different path home from work today. Have lunch at an Ethiopian or Cambodian restaurant.
Do these things, and then tell me if you still think so and so is a racist, homophobe, or hateful. Sometimes friction removes the rough edges. How much more if you open your mind to knew thoughts. Even if you disagree on certain issues, it’s a lot more difficult to label one a racist if you have had some personal contact with him.
In the end, it’s up to each of us to make America a more perfect union and it begins with U!
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm. He is also a contributing editor for ExcellStyle Magazine (www.excellstyle.com).