One hundred and seventeen years ago, Harvard educated black scholar W. E. B. Du Bois wrote in his seminal work, The Souls of Black Folk, that "the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line." In light of last month’s protests that arose from the killing of George Floyd, many people believe the challenge still remains twenty years into the 21st Century. Ironically, the principle that "all men are created equal" is foundational to the United States' Declaration of Independence. It's ironic because many of the men who penned the Declaration were slaveholders.
In the spiritual realm everyone is equally worthy. We all came from the same source and were made in the image and likeness of God. However, the acknowledgment of this equality of worth has not always manifested in our three-dimensional existence. For many in America, it remains an abstract idea. Despite the Civil War and the subsequent Emancipation Proclamation, neither equal treatment nor equal opportunities were a reality for all African Americans. Schools taught that lasting emancipation happened when enslaved people gained their freedom. Thus, all was well since they were able to go forth in the world and make a go of it like everyone else in the United States. They just needed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Of course, it hasn't been that simple.
There have been protests, both large and small, that have taken place as a result of the injustices that African Americans have faced since the Emancipation Proclamation. But the recent civil unrest, set in motion as a result of the filming and worldwide broadcast of George Floyd's murder, feels different. Many people who in the past have been casually aware of these instances but mostly unaffected by, or disinterested in, what was happening with their fellow spiritual beings have taken notice. They want to know what they can do to make a positive difference beyond participating in protests and donating money to organizations that support transformational change. One place to start is to seek to understand the experiences of the many members of the Black community. As Atticus Finch, the character from the book and movie To Kill a Mockingbird, said, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” One can never fully grasp what it's like to be someone else, but understanding their history can make a big difference.
I minored in African American Studies when I was an undergraduate student. It helped me understand the historical, sociological, and legal causes that lead to the racial divide that W.E. Dubois wrote about in his book. Those unfamiliar with the origins and the perpetuation of the racial divide but desire to be allies for racial justice can start by putting themselves in African American’s skin. This requires becoming familiar with their history. There are several resources available for those interested in that history. One is a guide created by a couple of University of Southern California Students called “Justice in June.” The guide's purpose is to educate people about racism and white privilege. You can find the guide at https://justiceinjune.org/.
Books I am familiar with and recommend include:
· Before the Mayflower by Lerone Bennet, Jr. (available as a free pdf online)
· Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (or any of Baldwin's books)
· Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
· From Here to Equality by William A. Darity, Jr.
Spiritually, behind every problem, there is an unfolding good waiting to be expressed. While Dr. Du Bois prophesied a problem for the 20th Century that is still a challenge today, we can launch ourselves into a larger and more just society collectively. By the time this Century ends, future generations can look back and say, "Problem solved," and you can take pride in knowing your consciousness contributed to the solution.
Peace and Blessings,