The roots of our nation run deep with independence and freedom. With a history that stretches across the Atlantic Ocean to the country of England, the United States has seen itself as the bastion of opportunity and possibility for people all around the world. With all of this, there is an unmistakable stain that diminishes the greatness that the U.S. has been. That stain is one that began in the 1700s as slaves were shipped like cattle across that same Atlantic from Africa to the land of liberty.
Since the beginning of slavery a war has been fought in several battlegrounds to win back the equality African-Americans held before being shackled together to board a ship headed to a land unknown to them. This war fought physically and mentally, continues to be waged without an end in sight as champions on both sides resound a clarion call to push back against the agenda of the other. Back in 1968 when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed the air was taken out of the sails of those men and women who saw racial inequality as the last battle of the 100-year old Civil War. With his death a shift occurred as the commanding general of the African-American community was silenced by an assassin’s bullet.
What James Earl Ray or whoever killed Dr. King accomplished was more than quieting this Baptist preacher. What they did was blanket the movement of equality and justice as the movement lost its direction and leader. Since that time, polarizing figures like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, have tried to elevate the cause that Dr. King championed. Yet their success has been relegated because of the changing landscape of the nation. And with that change, new ideas and strategies for racial equality have been either ignored or overlooked.
When a marriage is on the verge of divorce, a trial separation generally occurs. It is during this period where both husband and wife test being without each other. If they enjoy being apart, then moving forward with a divorce is the next logical step. On the other hand, if both sides feel that their marriage is worth them trying again then they enter into a phase called reconciliation.
This reconciliation was to tackle inequities on issues of education, economics, and employment. The focus of these race advocates was to speak truth to power and to show the enemy the error of his ways. What transpired and continues to transpire is the alienation of an increasingly diverse nation that sees the race rankering as bloated whining and the arguments made as the African-American community’s inability to stand up beyond the tragic nature of its arrival in this country. But is it possible in the face of the continued struggle that racial reconciliation is the wrong goal? Certainly, the motive is pure, but is reconciliation the ‘right’ goal?
Reconciliation occurs when separate individuals or interests choose to reconnect and join forces again as a united party. If that is the case then racial reconciliation is a myth. If, continuing to use marriage as the model, a couple reconciles, then their second attempt at being together seeks to be as rich and treasured as some point in the first. This underlines the real myth of racial reconciliation again as to why race and reconciliation struggle to accomplish anything.
With that lack of authentic preexistent race relationship, we must accept that, that lack must become our first aim. To debunk the myth of racial reconciliation a proactive approach to building relationships between races must take place. When a young man or woman begins dating someone new there is this process of feeling each other out, getting to know one another. There is no deep commitment other than to see where it goes.
Dating is not the goal of race relations. The goal of all cultures should be a happy union among us all. That comes from a commitment to embrace our differences and to honor the uniqueness of our individualities without allowing those same differences to drive us apart. Our ability to come together will decide more than anything else if and when race will cease to be a topic of debate or the underlying root issue in so many of our social ills.
There are no simple answers when it comes to marrying cultures. And as long as we see the task of integration as two difficult it will never happen. It can only happen when we fall in love with each other. When we embrace someone who does not look, act, think, or talk like we do. Then and only then will whites and blacks be ready to walk down the aisle together, culture and culture.