By Terri Lee Freeman, Museum President
2017 has arrived. How I wish I could list the incredible accomplishments that took place in 2016 to provide equitable access to opportunity, move justice forward, and ensure freedom. But frankly, I honestly believe 2016 was one of the most challenging years we’ve experienced in quite some time. Global violence at the hands of lone-wolf terrorists, as well as too frequent video of deadly interactions between police and community; even peaceful protests supported by police officers became killing fields at the hands of an angry individual.
Hateful rhetoric transcended race to include ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender and sexual orientation. Even individuals with disabilities were maligned during the presidential campaign. In 2016 we demonstrated our obvious distrust of the “establishment” and our desire for drastic change. We voiced our lack of faith in the mainstream media, and our need for factual information seemed to be almost non-existent! It was by all accounts a very tough year.
This reflection is my cue to take a walk through the National Civil Rights Museum and pull myself back together. I look at the pictures and the videos of people who wrestled daily with domestic terrorism and assaults on their very humanness. I walk through the exhibits and realize that the ordinary people who made the movement a reality actualized the scripture which states, “…the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, …but time and chance happen to them all.”
The fight for justice, equity and equality is a proverbial marathon and not a sprint. But, for us to even begin to effectively join the fight, we need to do some self-examination. We need to better understand ourselves and how we honestly see our neighbors. We need to ask some very uncomfortable questions and likely hear some equally uncomfortable answers. And, it’s time for the National Civil Rights Museum to lead the way in those discussions.
I’ve said it so many times before -- we will not move forward as a community until we have some difficult and uncomfortable conversations. Therefore, during the first quarter of this calendar year, we will announce and launch the “beta” of a facilitated cohort of individuals who are willing to commit to going deep with us on issues of bias, individual, structural and institutional racism. The goal will be for the participants to have a personal “ah-ha” to recognize their unconscious biases, and to actively become more inclusive in their lifestyles. We hope that those who volunteer to participate will begin to push aside those preconceived notions about others and make room for the possibility of similarities that may not be obvious at first glance.
So, here’s to a very happy, healthy and honest new year where our behavior behind closed doors is no different than that which we display openly. Here’s to a year that is filled with self-discovery, and a year where we all become better people because of how we view ourselves and our neighbors.
Over the next couple months we will provide you with more information on how you can be a part of this initiative to dig deep on bias and racism.