Honoring the First Annual National Day of Racial Healing
The First Step Toward Justice is the Courageous Recognition of Injustice
By Eric J. Jolly, Ph.D.
President & CEO
The Saint Paul Foundation
January 17, 2017 marks the first annual National Day of Racial Healing. We take time this day to celebrate and recognize the agents-of-change in our community who are leading the work in equity and racial healing.
You may be one of them.
We know equity agents-of-change are grounded in the belief that before meaningful change and healing can happen, injustice, both systemic and personal, must be courageously acknowledged.
Racial healing is about creating a shared understanding of our different experiences in a way that promotes trust and meaningful relationships among all of our neighbors. It is about coming to terms with the negative impact racism has had on individuals and our community across generations.
Racial healing is an important step toward creating equity.
To achieve an environment where everyone has a chance to thrive, we all get to – and need to – take part in this work. My deepest hope on this first National Day of Racial Healing is that we will see people of all backgrounds committing to both recognize and take part in the opportunity to claim a more just and equitable world. We need people who haven’t been part of the dialogue on race and equity to stand up and express their belief in the idea of racial healing.
In the 1980s, I was an administrator and professor at a large university. I was in one of our staff meetings with the dean of the college where we were talking about "yet another" round of budget cuts that would adversely affect the college. Another dean in this meeting used phrases of "we need to circle the wagons," "the legislature is on the warpath," "we’re getting scalped in this round of budget cuts," and more!
As a Native American, I regularly call out these phrases, and the hostility they represent. In this case I simply stood up and left. One of my colleagues came after me and asked earnestly, "Didn’t you find that racist? Why didn’t you say anything?"
My answer; "Because I’m tired. Why didn’t you?"
If you believe in a shared community value, it can’t solely be the responsibility of the target to call out injustice and inequity. I believe that the first step toward justice is the courageous recognition of injustice, not necessarily by the person who is injured or under siege, but as importantly, by the person who doesn’t have anything at stake in the fight, except their own sense of values and commitment to community. That takes courage.
It can’t only be incumbent on those that have been systematically marginalized and devalued to call out the injustices. True healing will begin when a majority of our neighbors join in, to both recognize and speak out, when injustice or inequity is present.
Today is an important day as we collectively work to shape Saint Paul and state of Minnesota as a model for equity. We are proud to work with so many agents- and agencies-of-change across our community to tackle issues of separation and segregation, justice, and economic participation; and to also begin the difficult task of changing the narrative around the false belief in a hierarchy of human value.
I suspect that if you are reading this, you have already spent time reflecting on race and its place in your life. I suspect that you have found times where you have been the one to courageously call out injustice. I hope that today you will invite others, who have not been part of the dialogue on race, to join you by sharing your commitment to promoting equity for all in our community. I’m proud to call myself a Minnesotan, and believe deeply in the words of Paul Wellstone: "We all do better, when we all do better."
Resources for Racial Healing
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