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How about you? Reflections on Charlottesville.

Posted by griffithd on August 15, 2017 at 3:05 PM

I have read and listened with interest the commentary of events in Charlottesville this weekend. I have done so through the lens of being an old white guy working at a faith based social service agency after a 38 year run in the private sector. First violence is unacceptable; hate is unacceptable; but what provokes it?

Four years ago I did not understand the term privileged when it was used to describe my standing in society. The idea that my access to opportunity and the associated economic benefits is an attribute, in part, to my race, my parents economic level, and gender was not one on my radar. My successes in my mind were a function of my education, hard work, and intelligence. The reality is, in fact, for me both are true, and it is a very uncomfortable tension for me, and I suspect others, as I look at the events in Charlottesville and the work we are now involved with in Philadelphia. Clearly, I am not alone.

Are we prepared to look critically at the issue of race and gender in America? It is my firm belief that individuals, all individuals, seek opportunity and the resulting stability and safety that economic well being brings. The hard issue here, the elephant in the room, is that white men historically have had better access to opportunity than women and individuals of color. The loss of that privileged access, or perhaps better said the fear of the loss of that access, is at the core of the white supremacy movement. Could it be that elements of white male America fear the inability to compete on a level playing field?

That same fear blinds individuals to the historical challenges faced by women and people of color and to the power of diversity. Poverty has many roots causes. The lack of access to opportunity and in turn meaningful employment certainly has roots in the issues of the education system, housing, and wellness, but at the core is the lack of a level playing field for all Americans. Success begets Success, but so does failure generate failure. It is the extraordinary resilient individual in the face of our current societal norms and conditions which can lift themselves out of poverty. Are we as Americans, specifically white male Americans, prepared to acknowledge that race and gender are real issues and that creating a different America requires an extraordinary historical shift in attitudes, social norms, and behaviors? Are we prepared to come together and create a bigger America or just hunker down a protect what is ours? Are we as Americans willing to level the field for all Americans, note that poverty in America is a more major issue in rural white America than urban America? Like it or not we are in a global economy, and we are stronger when we all participate.

I suspect the events in Charlottesville do not occur in an America where the private and public sector provide through any number of tools and incentives meaningful jobs with benefits, quality education, and training for the 21st-century realities, for all Americans. Economic well being reduces fear. Economic well being for all Americans requires leadership and courage and political will. It demands that we deal with our differences as a strength. It demands that we look forward with prayer and hope and not seek refuge in the past. If we are to grow and lead as a nation then we need to make the hard decision to create an equal opportunity for all Americans. What one does with that opportunity is still an individual choice. I am not calling for hand outs, I am calling for a thoughtful hand up. If we do not, then we are to be consumed as a nation. The challenge of this is daunting, but the cost of doing nothing is difficult to imagine.

As a person of faith, I know we are stronger when we stand as one and care for each other as one.

I call for change, I call for courage, for innovation, for freedom of choice in the true sense, I pray for all of these, and I commit to being part of the future. How about you?

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1 Comment

Reply Jeffrey Laylon
9:29 PM on August 17, 2017 
You have made me rethink the level playing field. Maybe I still believed that everyone had the same opportunities if they would just work hard enough and want hard enough. My own privilege can be blinding even while I work to lend a hand up to the impoverished. Your teachings are very empowering.