One other metaphor that encourages me when I think about the future of race, race relations and our country's ability to deal with these issues.
I was in Baltimore a few years ago at a meeting to talk about community organizing among African-American churches. There were about 30 plus Black pastors present. A bishop from the COGIC church (Church of God in Christ), told the story of an elderly church member who wanted to ride with him to a church service. He told her he would be glad to pick her up and on the day of the service he came to the woman’s house to pick her up.
The woman was dressed to go, but she was sitting in the house in tears. When he asked what was wrong, she told him her problem. She lived in a dangerous neighborhood. She had burglar bars on every window and every door in the house. She had a skylight in the living room and even that was covered with burglar bars! She was ready to go, but she couldn’t find the key to lock the burglar bar to the front door! She was locked in, even though the door was open.
In some way that is our country’s dilemma. It’s not that we don’t know where we want to go. It’s not even that we don’t want to go. We know what we want. According to the ideals we espouse, we know that we want justice and fairness; we want every citizen of our country to live productive, healthy and wholesome lives. As a country, have the unsettling habit of doing things which frustrate these very aims. And the challenge is to be able to put behind us - to lock the door on, if you will - those almost tendencies to do those things which violate our aims and goals and move forward to a future that enriches and enobles all of us. In short, we've got to find the key and lock the door!
It is interesting that we actually know what to do. We know what works. Ours is a country that put a man on the moon - we know how to educate children in math and science; this is a country which overcame the depression and transformed a wartime economy into the richest, progressive and innovative peace time economy in the history of mankind; haltingly we worked to try and strain beyond our prejudices and made significant steps to overcome legacies of racial injustice and oppression, we know what works because we have a history, however sporadic, of doing those things that work.
CNN's special shows us that the successes experienced by some segment of the African-American community, mirror in some ways, the dramatic successes of some immigrant communities that came to this nation voluntarily. We know what it took: creative mixtures of public policy and personal responsibility. It took hard work and work programs; it took generous employers and wage initiatives; it took political courage on the part of some elected officials and it took courageous legal ruling by brave jurists; it also took bravery to take advantage of the opportunities that legislation and legal rulings provided; it took caring education communities and communities that cared passionately about education; it doctors who dared to care and a broader health care community that dared to listen.
We like countless civilizations before us, have a past that is filled with glory and gore. We must move on inspired by the glory, but lock the door on the gore. The key is somewhere among the rubble and we must find it.
I know I've used an imperfect metaphor to explain why I have hope for a very difficult issue. But that's our dilemma. Not just that of Black people or Hispanics, or any one race. It’s the dilemma of our country. We are challenged to do what we know to do, and to move ahead to make a new world out of this old one. Yet as difficult as it may be, I still remain hopeful!
How about you?