Healing of deep wounds takes intention acts: action to mend the injury as well as action to prevent further injury. Healing our deep societal injuries that are evident in racial and cultural isolation and hostilities requires nothing less. That process of healing and seeking of wholeness is what I call “Reconciliation, in quest of the Beloved Community.”
Yet the very term “Reconciliation” can trigger very different reactions. When considered in the context of racial and cultural conflicts, is often romanticized or demonized. There is more talk than action when it comes to reconciliation as there are few people who will do the hard work to make it realized.
Reconciliation is romanticized by good intentioned, but naïve people who believe that with a few hugs, a few new friends, and a few “likes” on Facebook the racial and cultural disparities and hostilities can be erased for good.
Those who romanticize reconciliation are usually people in power (most often white) who use it as a code word to push their agenda and appease whoever is seeking changes and inclusion . They really are not interested, or perhaps even aware of the substantial demands of reconciliation: Real reconciliation requires that one acknowledges the causes of our divisions and searches for solutions.
Romanticizers like the word; but abhor the work that needs to be done.
I’ve met romanticizers in colleges and universities where I’ve worked, at conferences I’ve attended, and in churches and other social groups. Romanticizers make the prospects of real reconciliation look dim as they cheapen the word with multi-cultural poses and no substantial social action.
Reconciliation is demonized by those who look at the track record of various movements who have embraced the term. They believe that little has changed with all the talk of unity, and they know that some things have become worse. Additionally, many people of color have been burned by a “reconciliation friendship” that began to meet the needs of a guilt-ridden white person who also ended it once their needs were met or their expectations were crashed.
People who demonize reconciliation also contend; “Reconciliation is a correction, or righting, of what has been broken, but how can we be reconciled when we (various races and cultures) have never been united to begin with?”
Demonizers despise the word “reconciliation” but know the work that must be done in the quest for Beloved Community.
I’ve met demonizers around my community. They are good people, experienced organizers and people who seek justice. Some of them marched with King and were direct participants of the Civil Rights movement, those younger were raised in the midst of a paradox: the wealthiest nation in the world seeking to bring justice and democracy to other nations while also ignoring the poor and oppressed within its own boundaries.
“Reconciliation” gets romanticized and demonized – but, if the truth be told, it seems difficult to find people and places where it is realized.
What does it take to realize reconciliation and as King described it the creation of Beloved Community?