There are at least two ways to embark on a journey. One way is to make it an adventure where you set out with an idea of where you’re going, but you are open to detours of discovery along the way. The other way is to plan all the routes, even rest stops, and stick to the plan until you reach the final destination. What do these approaches have in common? Simply, the desire to arrive at a specific destination. In the field of diversity, equity, and inclusion, at the end of all the “courageous conversations” and trainings, is the destination the same or similar for all of us? In other words, what is our collective desired outcome as a society?
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr said, “I do not think of political power as an end. Neither do I think of economic power as an end. They are ingredients in the objective we seek in life. And I think that the end of that objective is a truly brotherly society, the creation of the beloved community.” This is an invitation for all of us to challenge our imaginations about what constitutes the Beloved Community that, in its basic concept, is an eloquent expression of a desire for justice and peaceful coexistence among all people.
What this past year has revealed is that the journey towards an equitable society has taken a detour not out of curiosity, but a detour caused by the convergence of multiple crises that have shattered the mythology of the American melting pot. Yes, this country is uniquely defined by immigrants from all over the world arriving here to “make a way out of no way” in the land of equal opportunity. However, the realities of identity, power and privilege that have been revealed during this time have shown just how deeply embedded and pervasive these disparities are even within the very systems that are supposed to be dedicated to advancing equity and justice.
Just think about the institutional guardrails, with their many imperfections, that are held up as the ideals of the country’s destination towards justice – voting rights, independent judiciary, representative government, separation of church and state, and freedom of the press, to name a few. In addition to these institutional pillars, we have come to rely on robust civic engagement as a key ingredient for accountability to the principals of equal opportunity and equal justice for all. We are witnessing these essential foundations of a thriving democracy crumble in plain sight. One notable exception to this last issue is Rev. Dr. William Barber’s relentless push for moral centered public policy that has yet to become a transformative national movement, www.poorpeoplescampaign.org. The emergence of Black Lives Matters put racial equity as the centerpiece of a national reckoning not only on racial justice, but on the commitment to democracy. www.blacklivesmatter.com/.
The aftermath of this past year of pandemics and the recent violent assault on the nation’s Capital compels a reimagining or the future of this country. Can we overcome the false binary construct of capitalism vs. socialism that hinders real movement toward creating a just economy? Is it possible to combine technological and social innovation in ways that don’t perpetuate the domination by one group over all others? Will elected officials begin to exercise their power with the lens of integrity rather than of the ties to lobbyists? There’s an urgent need to shift the paradigm of assumptions about America’s exceptionalism, and to listen to the diversity of emerging voices so that the pathway to a just society is truly inclusive. Do we share a commitment to journey together towards a desired outcome of the Beloved Community? Detour or straight ahead, the choice is ours.