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Our country is deeply divided along racial lines as we continue to try to shake off roughly 400 years of prejudice. Jim Wallis, in his book

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America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America states unequivocally “The United States of America was established as a white society, founded upon the near genocide of another race and then the enslavement of yet another.”

Despite major advances in paring back de jure racism, we continue to struggle with de facto racism. Racism is still alive in America, and there are troubling signs that we may in fact currently be losing ground in this epic struggle.

A recent exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC intending to encourage a dialogue entitled “Talking About Race” sparked major controversy as itself being racist. The museum, a part of the Smithsonian, bowed to pressure to remove a chart outlining signs of ��Whiteness” used to describe salient aspects of White Privilege.

Such is the tinder box of political division currently in this nation. We are not even comfortable with posing propositions, regardless of their merit, that encourage debate and seek resolution. The maddening paradox remains as many who adamantly insist they abhor racism as a concept sit idly by while institutional barriers to equal justice perpetuate a definitive racist system.

Civil discourse, if exercised correctly, requires an ability to disagree and reach for a complete examination of the differences that separate those discussing the topic.

White privilege, defined as “white people in America hold most of the political, institutional, and economic power, they receive advantages that nonwhite groups do not,” is central to our racial division and is a good starting point for a national dialogue on racism.

Civil discourse, if exercised correctly, requires an ability to disagree and reach for a complete examination of the differences that separate those discussing the topic. If we cannot even begin a discussion without extracting concessions on potentially controversial assertions we seriously diminish the value of the discussion and its ultimate conclusions, or lack thereof.

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I have often written over the last several decades about the conclusions reached by the Kerner Commission in 1968, a Presidential commission established by LBJ in the wake of riots that ripped through American cities during the 1960s. In short, the Commission concluded "Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal."

If a Presidential Commission on Race were instituted today would they disagree? I sincerely doubt it, in fact I would assert that an objective assessment today might conclude that in fact we as a nation have already arrived at the point where we are two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.

The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report in March of this year that showed a 55% increase in white nationalist hate groups since 2017. The report also concludes the following: “The most powerful force animating today’s radical right—and stoking the violent backlash—is a deep fear of demographic change. This fear is encapsulated in the conspiratorial notion that a purposeful “white genocide” is underway and that it’s driving “the great replacement” of white people in their “home” countries by foreign, non-white populations.”

We are flirting dangerously with the medieval concept of a closed society, something that is prevalent in dictatorial and authoritarian regimes throughout human history. The very concept of an open, transparent, civil, and democratic society is characterized by its openness, inclusion and diversity. In order for our civilization to move in a forward looking direction we must reject the concept of us and them, and focus on us.

The American experiment in representative democracy has been the gold standard not because we shut ourselves off from the rest of the world, either through destroyed alliances, name-calling or walls to keep others out, but rather through the inclusiveness encouraged by the welcoming light emanating from the torch of Lady Liberty, modeled after Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom. Her torch symbolizes enlightenment, Liberty enlightening the world. This is what will make America great again.

Our strength reflects our diversity and is our strongest asset. Mahatma Gandhi teaches us “Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilisation.”

Our nation is fast approaching the day when we will be a majority minority population, hence it is in our best interest to develop a civic acknowledgement of the importance of unity through diversity. It is who we are and we must live up to the image we project not only to ourselves but to the rest of the world.

[dc]D[/dc]r. Martin Luther KingJr., taught us to reject violence in our pursuit of enlightenment and justice. Violence from either side of the ideological spectrum only breeds deeper division and must be rejected. Diversity bonds us together and represents conviction and strength, understanding and compassion, the key ingredients to success.


Lance Simmens