Social Justice Articles 7

Perhaps the most effective thing you can do is to help teach our children about living together inclusively.  The world is getting very, very small and people of all kinds of complexions and cultures are being thrown together more and more.  By helping our children learn to respect and appreciate and embrace people who are different - while being comfortable with themselves - is a huge gift.  And it is also one of the most effective ways to teach yourself about these things.  It opens your eyes, helps you see things more clearly, and reinforces your own every day ways.  

All of these are ways to make a difference. And if enough of us do enough, they will make a difference to my grandchildren.  What’s more, they will make a difference to YOU.  Surely you’ve had an experience here and there where some good deed you have done, perhaps out of simple habit or just a quick, intuitive thought (not out of calculated guilt) has really helped someone.   Feels great, doesn’t it.   Your actions DO count.  The human reality we live with every day is largely the result of billions of little actions, gestures, sentiments that have accumulated into social habits and norms.  We have all been “carefully taught” … and are being taught as the days and months and years pass.

“You’ve GOT to be taught to be afraid,

  Of people whose skin is a different shade,

And people whose eyes are oddly made

  You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

  Before you are six or seven or eight;

To hate all the people your relatives hate

  You’ve got to be carefully taught.

  You’ve got to be carefully taught.”

Bob Throne is a retired minister and former human resource specialist who midwifed the hiring of the first African Americans, women and gays at Pacific Life Insurance.

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“You’ve GOT to be Carefully Taught”

But most of all, I guess I just want plead with you as a father and grandfather to take one little constructive step every day to reduce the residue of racism that clings to us all.  If you run into a person of color on the street, don’t change your path to avoid him.  Look him in the eye and give him a warm “hello”.   If a “slip of the tongue” of any sort does escape your lips, catch it and apologize immediately … and I mean not only if there is a person of color there, but equally, maybe more urgently, if it happens with all Whites around.  If you can do that once or twice, I urge you to be courageous and speak up when you hear some one else’s “slip of the tongue”.   

I know how had that is … I still struggle with it myself … and I’ve lost some friends for it, I guess - or at least cooled some relationships.  But it’s easier for me to give Mattie and Kareem, Jonathan and Sophia - my grandchildren - a hug.  I sleep better.

If you’re already doing these kind of things, consistently,  habitually, as part of you’re everyday persona, there are more ambitious things to do, too.  (And you are also a very, very rare person ... I’ve met only a couple such people and I doubt I’d pass the consistency test myself.)  

There are institutional issues around every corner screaming for people of conscience to speak up. Are your schools well integrated? And is the curriculum deeply reflective of and honest about the experience of African Americans?  Do the groups you belong to - Rotary, garden clubs, golf clubs, book groups, symphony, swim club, whatever - genuinely welcome Black folk?  

.. Do they ever reach out to be more inclusive?  Do they even mention the subject?  And of course there is the whole political arena... Do you make the issue of racism central in your own voting decisions? Do you question where the candidates stand, with rigor, about the implications of their policy positions on people of color?   Are you active politically, at any level, and bring a healthy awareness of racism’s residue to your effort?

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