We watch videos, listen to lectures and purchase the latest books on how to be non- offensive and non- threatening advocates, anti- racists and ambassadors of racial reconciliation. Or, we expect explanations and apologies from complete strangers of the space, time and condition that we speak of. “They” weren’t there but it’s their fault. “They” weren’t aware of the offense and didn’t know that we existed until today but it’s their problem to fix. “They” are to fix all of them and any of us who come to them with a complaint about race or stereotypes or prejudices or body, hair or self- esteem issues.
Later, we exchange stories and business cards. We see our commonalities clearly, make covenants and are bosom buddies for the entire two- day workshop or weeklong conference. We have reconciled our differences at least while our chairs are in a circle. The dividing wall has been toppled and the color line erased. This is diversity training or practices in reconciliation. But, what happens when the chairs are put back under the tables, when the room is stripped of its charts, book displays and power point presentations? What happens when we take off our name tags, stuff our suitcases with the folders full of information that we have received and we leave the room?
Most of the conversations about race, reconciliation, diversity, tolerance and cultural inclusion are but repetitions of stories past, a recounting of past offenses and woundings. I hate you. You hate me. Now, what? What do we do with this hatred and can we move past it? If not, then why talk about race at all?
If we are not willing to put aside our grudges and our need for others to hurt as we have hurt, then we are not ready for a dialogue about race. If we are not ready to examine our prejudices, misjudgments and privileges then, we are not ready for the work of reconciliation. If we cannot put all of our options on the table, to include the possibility of forgiving and forgetting and of seeing ourselves as we really are, then what are we training for? If we are not ready to think about life after hatred/ after oppression/ after privilege/ after race , then we will continue to spend or time bettering our defensives, collecting examples and instances of mistreatment and sharpening our critiques and criticisms of each other.
I hate you. You hate me. But, really what’s next?