I recently had to write a piece on my inspiration and motivation. Thought I would share it here as well:
I am a passionate believer in social justice. Race relations, diversity and inclusion, to me, are stepping stones toward the greater goal of social justice. I am moved to this conclusion because without progress towards social justice none of the other values will ever truly be brought to fruition. Minor successes in the areas of race relations, diversity and inclusion are to be applauded—but without working toward social justice, it is the equivalent of baling out a sinking boat with a teaspoon. . . there will always be an overwhelming sense of drowning even as small gains are made.
This deep passion for social justice was first brought to fruition through the words of Jesus where he declared “the kingdom of God is in the hearts of men.” I take this to be an all-encompassing commandment and warning that it is how we act and how we treat others, which defines us as followers of God (by whichever name he may be known) and that is what defines WHO WE ARE. This belief has been bulwarked by the writings of Paolo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the venerable Malcolm X.
To me “the kingdom of God” is not a utopian wonderland where one sect or group is proven “right” and given rule and authority; but rather it is the collective, altruistic nature and desire of mankind. That innate human desire to be better than we are, and more human than we thought we could be. The wisdom of this single quote is also the key to its success. It is in the “hearts of men (and women)”. Despite what faith or tradition you come from, or whether you hold any faith as tradition or not-the impetus is the same. It is up to each and every person to look within and bring about a better world through our own actions.
The work of social justice is not always accomplished on a grand scale on a world stage. More often than not, is accomplished through the words and relationships and stands of everyday people. And my commitment is to always be one of those people. I believe we must strive and work towards social justice if we are to fulfill the dreams of the framers of our constitution and create a pluralistic democracy that truly functions and truly benefits its citizens.
This is where race relations, diversity and inclusion come in to play. While the greater goal of social justice must be kept in focus; it is through these “teaspoons” and other such values, that real ground is gained. In everyday life, it is my decision and goal to operate in love. This is not a “hippy” mentality, nor a non-reflective Christian jingle. Rather it is a decision to make the hard decisions because they are right and because my actions (or inactions) impact others around me. I am passionate about living my life this way, because in the end, this is what matters . . . is the world a better place because you were in it.
In the Emperor’s New Clothes it is the voice of truth that would not be silent that showcased the absurdity of status quo and group think. We are living in a time when the Emperor of Group Think is parading about and too often no one is willing to speak up and expect a change. We must be willing to not only hold our elected officials feet to the fire of truth, nor just the leaders of business or self-proclaimed “advocates”, but our friend and neighbors, each other and ourselves.
I can only speak from my own experience, and I will not attempt to presume to tell another group how they should handle themselves, that is not my place; but I can speak for groups of which I am a part. We, as whites, must be able to admit racism is a part of our culture, institutionalized along with white privilege and a sin we are all guilty for; we must acknowledge who we are in realistic terms and not as either “white devil” or “great white hope”. We, as people committed to change, must strive hard to acknowledge and be inclusive of groups not only defined by race. We must recognize not only everyone’s right to exist, nor even their right to be successful, but also their right to bring their own perspective and wisdom to further the greater goal of social justice. We, as a community, must move beyond “hate as heritage” on one hand and “token” appreciation and accolades, on the other. Race relations, diversity and inclusion are not the sole property of one paradigm or ideology, but we must not allow them to be derailed or made impotent in the name of bi-partisanship. Compromise should not compromise the greater goal. We, as a country, must acknowledge our past and present sins ranging from the desolation of the indigenous American peoples, to the bitter stain and scar of slavery and Jim Crow to more recent travesties, such as writing discrimination into law. Finally, we as humanity must move towards seeing “those people” as we see ourselves. We must be willing to “walk a mile in another man’s moccasins” and appreciate the unique perspectives that can only be gained from unique individuals. We have to get to the point where we acknowledge another human beings right to feel and interpret based on their beliefs and experience regardless of whether we agree with those feelings or interpretations. We must learn to forgive and we must learn to act in love. This can only be accomplished, as Margaret Mead so wisely said, through a group of committed people. I choose to be a member of that group, not by my affiliations, rhetoric or prose; but through the actions and interactions of my everyday life.