Riots, Racism & Reproach... Is Racial Healing Still Possible?
By Rev. Aliah K. MaJon, PhD
It's June 2020, and our daily news broadcasts, almost nationwide here in the United States, are filled with reports of Riots, Racism, and Reproach... This is my second time writing about the topic of "Racial Healing" for Catalyst, and since that first article nearly two years ago, instead of things getting better, they definitely seem to be getting worse — with some people feeling with all of the unrest, that things have come to a boiling point. The crowds are big even with the pandemic. Face masks and all, people are letting it be known that human injustice is simply not something we will tolerate any longer.
We have witnessed the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, just to name a few. We heard about a woman named Amy Cooper in Central Park literally staging — in other words, fabricating — that a Black man was threatening her, and that she needed help from the police.
Tens of thousands of people have stood up to say "no more" will we sit by and let the unthinkable happen because of race — people from every walk of life, every ethnicity, every skin color, every culture, every age and every economic status. The words "Black Lives Matter" ring out via human voices with people taking to the streets from places as far away as the UK, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, and Australia, as well as from our close neighbor Canada.
But... although these powerful protests send a strong, clear, and poignant message that enough is enough, protests do not provide the means for genuine, effective, and sustainable Racial Healing to unfold — they only let us know that healing needs to happen. And, because of where we find ourselves in this moment in time, someone recently asked me if I still thought that Racial Healing was possible? My answer is a resounding "YES!"
So, I'm taking this opportunity to state again that it's my firm conviction that Racial Healing is not just still within reach, the response we are seeing all around us and across the world is an indication that THE TIME TO CARRY IT OUT IS FINALLY HERE...
Delivering George Floyd’s Eulogy, Rev. Al Sharpton literally preached that this “time” is different — it’s the time where our human hearts are saying “no more.” Which allows us to become hopeful again, and let me add that I am highly encouraged by many things that have been happening like the former police officers being fired and prosecuted for murder, as well as all the direct statements from celebrities and companies and communities and municipalities. We have many things that are lifting us up as we begin the long road to lasting healing. And, this is where I, a professional who has been focusing my energy and efforts on healing the racial divide for decades, will suggest and succinctly outline what I feel must be done... We must:
- Go far beyond just legislating positive change around race to genuinely embodying it
- Look in the mirror to discover how we may unknowingly be feeding the racial divide
- Come together with others to share deep examination and collective transformation
- Dedicate our best thinking to uncovering what needs to be done utilizing a Brain Trust
- Become passionate about this work, and step into leadership roles to really get it done!
For many years, The Shift Network has been offering the Summer of Peace Summit, and the much-needed theme this year is “Transforming Racism.” It was a great honor for me to be one of the earliest interviews with Philip Hellmich this past week, via Facebook Live, where he and I spoke about my specific ideas for Racial Healing.
We will start with those of us who are ready RIGHT NOW, the individuals that I will describe as the "initiators," those who will take responsibility for anchoring the work and collectively erecting the pathways to the next level. We will be committed to learning critical lessons from the process, as well as to incorporating that wisdom gained instantly to improve our effectiveness... So, let it be known that this article is an invitation to YOU, and to all the other partners that will join us to become unified and passionate about growing together as we move boldly towards achieving our goals. Here is what I am offering as the foundation for us to built upon:
The R.A.C.E. Project:
R. = Reconciliation through...
A. = Action Steps
C. = Community-Building &
E. = Examination of Self
Our work will be called “The R.A.C.E. Project,” and it will be organized as a voluntary, grassroots, higher-consciousness-focused, spiritually grounded initiative in which a diverse group of creative, passionate, and effective people carry out the work of dissolving racial barriers — in a sustainable fashion. The whole idea behind an initiative like this is for people to take ownership of it, and to fully embrace the work by bringing their ideas to bear on what we will do together. In other words, this is not something that I am to be the author of, nor is it already in existence. Instead, it is an Invitation to ALL OF US to choose to play a key role in creating and guiding a “Brain Trust,” which facilitates and offers to others the opportunity for Racial Healing and a deeper, reality-shifting examination of race — starting with ourselves — where we bridge, heal, and transform the racial divide in our lives.
Again, I can’t stress enough that we will do this because we choose to, not because it is forced upon us. It is to be a collective endeavor in which everyone is a leader and a valued contributor. This is more than mere buy-in; we are to proceed with a team mindset and open hearts, and constantly find ways to unify our intentions and think together.
To break down the essential messages of The R.A.C.E. Project, and explain what it means in terms of the proposed work and philosophy, I’ll define each letter in the acronym:
- The “R” stands for reconciliation, which is inspired by the principles of “Truth & Reconciliation,” where people show up telling the truest truth after some harm has been done. This act of truth-telling establishes the foundation for healing and forgiving and people changing their ways.
- The next letter of “A” stands for Action Steps, because this work will have a clear requirement to not merely talk about and/or intellectually discuss what is keeping us apart; instead we will hold each other accountable for tangible action steps and impacting others.
- Next, the all-important “C” stands for “Community Building” to represent that people agreeing to do this as a group is the whole point, and that a Brain Trust is many individuals thinking together as collaborative change agents.
- And, lastly, we are invited to commit to the final letter of “E”, which sets this particular work apart from other efforts; nothing will take place unless and until we are willing to deeply “examine” our own selves — and that means ALL OF US — no matter our racial identity.
When we begin to work together, we must be clear about one very important thing: there will be no victims or villains in this process, just people intent upon really getting to the bottom of what has plagued us all in this racially troubled country, in this so-called democracy and beautifully diverse place that has been masquerading as a beacon of freedom and equality.
We will ask ourselves deep questions, and compassionately answer them together, such as:
- How have I been programmed to think about racial difference?
- How can I become conscious of those messages and begin to reverse them?
- Where do we start in a process like this, without anger, accusations, embarrassment, or guilt?
- Why is it critical to look at our thoughts, fears, shortcomings, and our own secret needs?
Lastly, let me end by saying that I sincerely hope that I am not the only person hearing the “call” that I am describing here. As an African American woman of baby boomer age, it has been a lonely and sometimes risky journey that I have been happy to take, even when I was one of the only people that was willing to go there. Mostly because I’ve always been committed to loving and reaching for others and not hating and giving up on people who may have skin of a different color or whose culture is not like mine. My heart has shown me the way and constantly grown my skill for navigating the icky-ness.
So I am reaching out to you with this article and these words from my heart of hearts. I am asking you to come and join me to help make all of of our lives better as we build bridges, grow new ways of being together, and jointly create a brighter collective destiny. It is my wish, and perhaps it is your wish as well, that our work will make the racial divide between us finally disappear, never ever to return again. Please listen inside to your Inner Voice for your answer.
Dr. Aliah K. MaJon is known for her work with both adults and youth who are facing future-defining crossroads, the devastation of loss, and the disadvantage of a traumatic background. Her methodologies are informed by firsthand experience growing up in the inner city of Detroit and losing her only child to suicide. Dr. Aliah also believes that one of the greatest hindrances to the success of disenfranchised populations in the United States is our country’s history of the racial divide. And, she is committed to harnessing her decades of experience addressing bias and inequality as a diversity trainer, consultant, United Nations delegate, facilitator of citizen-police dialogues, and creator of “Racial Healing Brain Trusts,” which began in 2013 with the ambitious pilot program she spearheaded called "A National Conversation on Race."
Her involment in such activities inspired her to launch The Next 50 Years Project to teach cultural intelligence and to pioneer tools that build bridges across human difference. Dr.Aliah’s core message is: “Our Destiny is About Our Collective Evolution.” She also proudly holds a trademark for a groundbreaking coaching methodology called SOUL TECHNOLOGY®, where she introduces people to the other half of their intelligence and demystifies what it means to benefit from inner knowing. Her approach is comprehensive and future-focused, and she supports people to overcome obstacles and begin to excel utilizing her expertise in the areas of transpersonal psychology and personal growth, combined with her extensive experience in group work and as a consulting professional.
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This article appears in: 2018 Catalyst, Issue 15: Finding Common Ground - Summer of Peace