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Leadership and Race

Recently,  4/25/21, US Senator Lindsay Graham, R, S.C. declared that, in his opinion, there is no systemic racism in America.  “America is not a racist country,” he said.  (i)  Well, the existence of racist laws as pointed out in last week’s blog, Malevolent Laws , proves, beyond my doubt that systemic racist is alive and well in the United States.  White privilege combined with power creates its own particular kind of blindness, and Lindsay Graham is but one example of that.

It’s common for those from one nation to be suspicious of those not from that nation.  It’s common for human beings to be generally suspicious of those who are not like us, so it’s not a stretch to say that racism floats around us all the time.  But America took that social construct (meaning society created it, has no basis in science, yet the majority believe it to be true) to new heights and refined it so that it continues to evolve, like an organism, into harder to name racist behaviors.  For example, now that we are no longer under Federal oversight on segregation, you will hear talk about going back to neighborhood schools.  Sounds good on the surface, but that is just another way to segregate the races.  Under current school funding systems, based on property tax, low income neighborhoods do not get the same funding as higher income communities, and therein rests systemic racism.  Schools serving those populations will always be inferior under this “neighborhood” system.  It’s also a fallacy to believe that we’ve integrated our neighborhoods so that there’s more of an equal access to quality education.  That just ain’t so and a quick look at our self-selected enclaves is enough anecdotal evidence to prove that.

What can get us above/away from racism?  Leadership principles say that to make a culture change, and that is what this is, it first takes courage.  Leaders are tasked with setting a vision and creating systems and structures that support that vision. If there is a gap, human beings will fill that gap in vision and structure with what serves them…and that is true in business, church, neighborhoods and even in families.  We hate gaps and rush in to fill them based on our own preferences.

Courage is strengthened by employing a set of habits and skills.  The first thing you should be doing is praying for courage as a gift from the Spirit.  Then you need to do a self-awareness examination to see where you sit in the racism continuum.

In this instance, what are your beliefs about race?  Don’t say you are color blind.  First, that is impossible to do.  Second, it dehumanizes people of color by saying you don’t see them as they are.  Can you recognize racist attitudes when they cross your mind?  (I do most of the time).  Do you laugh at jokes about ethnic group behavior?  (I have).  Do you have thoughts along the lines of “what’s the big deal?” when it comes to equality among the races?  Do you deny that race plays a part in hiring or promoting staff.  Is it clear by your words or body language that race is not a welcome topic for discussion?  If so, you have some work to do on yourself first, as do I.  My suggestion to start your self-awareness education is to read books about race by Black authors.  The book that has best improved my self-awareness and was most compelling was Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Dr. Joy Degruy.  Dr. Degruy points out the generational effects of slavery, how parents taught their children protective behavior, safe ways to live around Whites, from generation to generation.

The late humorist Erma Bombeck said, “It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.(ii)  Proverbs 28:18 says that “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  After self-awareness, the next critical step in leading into a more God-like vision of the world is to cast God’s vision of a racially diverse, equitable and inclusive society.  Cast that vision with compelling language, imagery drawn from great vision casting leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jesus of Nazareth, and stories that make it clear that what has been is not what can be.

In next week’s blog, we’ll pick up here, with skills that build courage.  Until then, begin to pray earnestly for the gift of courage and for the words the Lord promised to those called to speak of the beloved Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

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(i)  Graham: ‘America is not a racist country’ (msn.com)
(ii)  https://www.brainyquote.com/  Accessed 12/3/18

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