On this National Day of Racial Healing let’s celebrate the progress towards rejecting the belief in a hierarchy of human value that fuels racism, xenophobia and religious bias. Even as loud voices and despicable acts across the globe spew bigotry and division, what I also see is a growing understanding of our common human ancestry and interconnectedness, the components for a just society where everyone has equal value.
Rose-colored glasses? Not really.
At this moment, the mobilization of an array of individuals, organizations and establishments is creating historic opportunities for a societal change that will impact communities. People are relating to one another with greater empathy, compassion and a willingness to challenge the status quo, as they strive for a fairer and more just society.
To-be-sure, there are many threats to unity that must be overcome. But what we must recognize is that it is happening!
#RxRacialHealing, a movement launched with five organizations — Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU), American Public Health Association, Community Action Partnership, National Collaborative for Health Equity and Ntianu Center for Healing and Nature – is inspiring progress. Our objective is to mobilize a critical mass of people across the United States committed to healing the racial wounds of the past while seeking an end to racism, inequities and injustices that plague communities of color.
As communities celebrate the National Day of Racial Healing, the stage is being set to continue the monumental change underway. New converts inspired by today’s celebration, proclamations and actions can join others already taking massive steps:
AACU has partnered with higher education institutions to establish Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Centers that are preparing the next generation of strategic leaders and thinkers to break down racial hierarchies and dismantle the belief in the hierarchy of human value. AACU hopes to develop at least 150 self-sustaining, community-integrated Campus Centers that move to erase structural barriers to equal treatment and opportunity on campuses, in our communities and across the nation.
The American Library Association (ALA) sponsors a Great Stories Club (GSC), where libraries, community partners and low-income teenage audiences engage in reading and discussing theme-related books and participating in programs led by a racial healing practitioner. Local communities engage in racial healing and change efforts that address inequities linked to historic and contemporary beliefs in racial hierarchy. It also seeks to bridge embedded divides and generate the will, capacities and resources for achieving greater equity and healing, particularly in the lives of young adults facing personal challenges such as detention, incarceration, addiction, academic probation, poverty and homelessness.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has valiantly stepped up and filled in the huge gap created when the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) didn’t include mental and physical harm from racism when the CDC acknowledged other social determinants of health impacting the quality of life for Americans – economic stability, education, social and community context, health and healthcare, and neighborhood and environment. The organization of 67,000 pediatricians, which is committed to optimal physical, mental and social health and well-being for infants, children, adolescents and young adults, issued a policy statement declaring that “racism is a social determinant of health” with a profound impact on the health status of children, adolescents, emerging adults and their families.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children declared last spring that all children have the right to equitable learning opportunities that help them achieve their full potential as engaged learners and valued members of society. “Thus, all early childhood educators have a professional obligation to advance equity,” their statement said. “They can do this best when they are effectively supported by the early learning settings in which they work and when they and their wider communities embrace diversity and full inclusion as strengths, uphold fundamental principles of fairness and justice, and work to eliminate structural inequities that limit equitable learning opportunities.”
These efforts underscore the need for Americans of all races, ethnicities, religions and socioeconomic standings to come together and heal the wounds of the past, and move forward collaborating on how to enhance the quality of life in their communities. Just as we praise the National Day of Racial Healing, we also celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday and the many words of wisdom he left us. Dr. King believed that division and separation harm not only communities, cities and individuals, but threaten the entire nation.
If Dr. King were alive today, I believe he would cite the extraordinary power of the misinformation and fake-news widely distributed online and on social media platforms as the greatest barrier to national unity.
The algorithms that drive these platforms feed on our biases fueling extremism, anti-Semitism and hate. As a visionary leader, Dr. King would champion regulation and oversight of this rapidly exploding industry that values profit over principled responsibility.
Just as Dr. King would applaud the National Day of Racial Healing, I see him calling the alarm on the greatest threat to actualizing the Beloved Community he envisioned.