Healing is often fantasized as an invisible, almost painless, process of perhaps slow, but continuous progress towards wholeness; like that of a paper cut, or a stubbed toe. Even if you receive a few more bumps or scrapes to that same site, it will heal.
I’m afraid, societal healing is more serious than a scrape or a bruise. It is more like a removal of a cancerous growth. It isn’t easy. It isn’t painless. And it isn’t invisible. It also will not ‘just heal’ on its own. Multiple surgeries and significant interventions are likely needed to remove cancer. So too, societal healing takes intentional effort.
I think back to when slaves were first freed. It was a first surgery. But the follow-up care was disastrously inadequate, resulting in festering wounds, and life-threatening illness. It also didn’t remove all of the cancer. What was gained in freedom, on paper, wasn’t truly realized. What was given, on paper, was not truly given in mind and attitude. Former slaves were simply set free with an infrastructure that was set up against them. Rampant attacks continued to threaten safety. White mindset continued to feel safe in segregation and threatened by integration. Laws had changed, but there was little to support their full realization.
The second surgery might be the Civil Rights movement. Great strides were taken in creating laws, and some supports were instituted that would enforce those laws. The injustice of segregation was being realized and our nation’s government began to ascribe to equality. There was just one ‘little’ problem. There was still some cancer that escaped the surgery. Passed down through hundreds of years of ancestry, was the mindset that the “melting pot” was the only right way. America was the land of the free and the home of the brave, welcoming you to a place where your hard work mattered – but only if you knew how to blend in and speak English, the ‘proper’ way.
What if you didn’t blend in? What if you were visually identifiable? Well, then you weren’t conforming to the great ‘American’ ideal and were… are…. Suspect. Unfortunately, this is the cancer we are dealing with right now. There is, sadly, a ‘norm’ and we still have an inability to see outside of that. There is also a deep exhaustion running through our BIPOC neighbors and friends, a weariness from hundreds of years of being thought of as “not conforming to the ‘norm,’” of being misunderstood, of being suspect.
How do we heal from a cancer so insidious? At Mission1Race, we believe that understanding is at the core of addressing this cancer. But it will take some surgery on your own heart. I perform my own surgery when I sit down with my neighbor/friend/co-worker and attempt to understand their experience. I must lay aside my protective pride and my pesky shame to really hear what their life feels like. It won’t feel good, but then, after the surgery, glorious healing begins to occur. Sometimes it takes some strategic wounding to create the impetus for healing. How are you going to be open to that surgery this week?
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We are aware of the magnitude of this subject matter and the inadequate brevity of this post. For more, please reference our podcasts, our 1Community groups, or feel free to email us at Uniquelythesame@mission1race.org.
We also wish to address our inability to consider issues of sexual, physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse in our discussions on developing understanding and oneness. If you are in an abusive situation of any kind, we encourage you to seek professional and other help; and to realize that this content does not necessarily apply to your circumstances.