There is a classic story about a hypothetical dream conveyed to a psychiatrist in which a runner tries to catch up in a race of 401 laps. The runner keeps being held back from completing the race by one obstacle after another, until a merged path appears when “a huge bright light began to shine.”
This dreamscape offers an analogy to the history of African American people in the US, starting with 1619-1865 during slavery, when we were held back. Then, from 1865-1877, and Reconstruction, the relay-race moved in a positive direction. From 1877-1964, we experienced Jim Crow, followed by 1965-2020 and 55 years of covert racism under the assumption that “everyone is equal.”
The end of the dream is “allyship” (the meshing of the lanes, or the convergence of interests and concerns, regarding race) to reach the
Beloved Community, filled with justice, human compassion, and dignity.
Before we move forward in this St. Francis Day event, we need to identify some terms that will emerge in this conversation. For example, the word “antiracism” refers to the internal and external work being done to dismantle racism. This racism is often “structural or systemic racism,” the engine, building, or design that allows racism to thrive.
“Implicit bias” and “unconscious bias” refer to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.
Conversely, “explicit bias” or “conscious bias” refers to the attitudes and beliefs we have about a person or group on a conscious level. Much of the time, these
biases and their expression arise as the direct result of a perceived threat. When people feel threatened, they are more likely to draw group boundaries to distinguish themselves from others.
“Race” is a false social construct, not based on divine or natural law, and it divides cultures as superior to another. “White privilege” addresses inherent advantages possessed by a white person based on race, characterized by racial inequality and injustice.
“Black Lives Matter” is not a condemnation of a group of people while uplifting the superiority of another, which is racism. Rather, BLM means that my life matters and yes, “All Life Matters” by God’s moral, creative compass. But if a racist, soulless system of oppression in America continues to deny people of color human dignity and worth, then we negate the term All Lives Matter. Ultimately, we negate God, because All Lives (can’t) Matter until Black Lives Matter.
Edgar Hayes is a member of the Agape Mission Council and co-founder of Freedom Farm in Middletown, NY.