“In my experience the motivation of black friends and colleagues isn’t to make white people feel guilty, to beat us up over our racial history, or to just complain about it. What I hear is deep concern for their children and for their future, and the reasonable expectation that white people not defend themselves from the past but rather join efforts to build a better multiracial future.” (p. 36)
That’s what Jim Wallis wrote in his book, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America. It’s a great read because of his compassionate, insightful, nonjudgmental, moral, theological analysis of where we are as a country. Even though Wallis, a white man, talks about white privilege, it’s not an attack on white people, but more of an examination of a social construct of whiteness and its influence on America. And he does not just pay lip service to multiracial America. He goes further than the Black/White dynamic that dominates many race-related dialogues and discusses the history of Native and Asian Americans. Wallis also provides a framework to think through issues of mass incarceration and immigration as well.
His conclusion is that when we genuinely begin to hear one another’s stories, we begin to understand one another, and then we’re able to do the work necessary to cross that “bridge” to a new America. Every time an ugly incident happens, people start declaring that we need a conversation, a dialogue, a discussion. The value of America’s Original Sin is that it brings some profound insights about why it’s been so hard for us to have that conversation and touches upon issues of segregation, isolation, and fragility. Once we get over those issues we can move across that bridge.
“. . . the next bridge to cross is America’s transition from a majority white nation to a majority of racial minorities”. (p. 194)
It’s well worth the read.
Rhonda Harrison completed her studies at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.