Tag Archives: racial reconciliation

A Reconciling Experience:Asking Hard Questions

Earlier this week I participated in a conversation on Reconciliation.  A longtime African American resident of Richmond who lived through the era of desegregation was in my discussion group and asked some really great questions.  “What do we mean by reconciliation?  What is the goal and how do we know when we have reached it?”  This gentleman spends a lot of time in impoverished African American communities who have been damaged by attempts to “reconcile” and he approached the subject with what appeared to me to be hostility toward the idea of reconciliation or what he perceived as reconciliation. Another member of the group helped me understand the anger I was sensing.  He shared that he had interviewed educators with 30-40 years experience teaching in the black community and asked them “Did desegregation help or hurt black communities?”  The overwhelming response was “It was harmful to the community.”  Another participant in our group shared how as a little girl, the message she received was that she had to give up her community and her school in order to live in the “white man’s” world.  For her the word “reconciliation” was synonymous with “loss and sacrifice.”

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Racial Reconciliation in Richmond Virginia?

I think one of the most difficult realities of trying to bridge the inner city of Richmond with the surrounding counties revolves around issues of race.  John Perkins in his book Beyond Charity states, “Because race is such a major player in our history, any attempts to solve the problems of our cities will mean, first, acknowledging the race problem instead of denying that it is a factor, and second, planning our strategies to anticipate the wild card of race.  Otherwise race will continue to be an obstacle with enough emotional power to divide and conquer.”  This is particularly true in Richmond Virginia – the capital of the confederacy.

As I began doing the interviews for my book From the Sanctuary to the Streets, I was surprised by how many times my homeless African American friends brought up race with many commenting on how they “used to hate white people.”  The first time I heard this from someone whom I had grown very close to, I was surprised.  However, the more I heard this same statement, the more I realized that racial tensions are still very strong, especially among those who are on the margins of society.

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