The Abbott Institute

501 (c) (3)

  Racism and Other Social Issues: An approach to Dialogue- By Phil Morrison      When discussing racism and other social issues we must reflect upon the perspectives of the people who are doing the talking, including our own. To determine one's perspective, we should consider the influence of age, race, family background, religion, nationality, culture, economic situation, occupation, physicality, sophistication, education, political leanings and a number of other factors. The charisma of the person doing the speaking may also affect how you receive the information given. Depending on what side of the issue the participants are on, there will be those emphasizing the positive and minimizing the negative of some topics while maximizing the negative and minimizing the positive of others. An example may be found in the description of our country's early beginnings.      One person might say:"This country was built by hard working pioneers, many of whom fled from tyranny and persecution in Europe to form a free democracy and a civilized land based on the Judeo-Christian ethic. It is now the most powerful country on earth."      Another person might say:"After stealing this country from its indigenous people and all but annihilating them, it was built on the backs of enslaved men, women and-children from Africa who were kidnapped and dehumanized. America is considered by many to be one of the most racist countries on earth."      It would be difficult to argue with either statement but, in most cases, people would use one statement or the other as opposed to addressing both viewpoints which could foster better understanding, particularly as it relates to race. It is not uncommon for those of us who want to promote a certain position to generalize, euphemize, oversimplify or selectively omit pertinent facts. This is particularly true when socio-political issues are involved and people who identify themselves as conservative or liberal are making the comments. Most conservatives and liberals have this country's best interest at heart, but in order to balance the negative rhetoric against each group, misleading and antagonistic statements are made by each side against the other, thus creating a divisive atmosphere.      If there is an honest desire to resolve conflicts and reach a mutual understanding harmoniously, a good start would be to emphasize and appreciate things WE as humans have in common; such as: family, children, a desire for a quality life, peace, education, religion, etc. We can disagree, but we can also respect the sincerity of those with whom we disagree, no matter how wrong or impassioned they appear to be. Acting violently or abusively toward anyone because of racial, political, religious or social differences is counterproductive because that action could then become acceptable behavior by all sides and creates an atmosphere of chaos, unrest, and suffering. Just imagine how you would be, and how you would think if you had the same background, culture, training, religion, etc., as your adversary. You'd probably come to the realization that given the same circumstance, you'd think and act the same way as your counterpart. Conversely, she or he would act and think as you do. Hopefully, with that kind of understanding, there can be more tolerance, appreciation and, ultimately resolution and unity in the world.      No matter how convinced we are that we have the truth, we must remember that it is based on our limited frame of reference and often times on what we would like to believe. All of our perspectives are relatively small in scope, given the vast amount of knowledge we have not learned, experiences we have not had, places we have not been, people we have not met, cultures we have not experienced, etc.      People also unjustly ascribe motives to others: the "mind-reader syndrome" I call it: "he only said that because I'm Black (or White)" or "she's just grandstanding; she's not really sincere", etc.  Even though we might feel a certain way as to why someone did or said something, only a mind reader (if there is such a person) would know the actual motive. This can create a divisive atmosphere based on speculation or assumption which are attitudes we should avoid when dealing with people. We should also be aware that there are many dynamic individuals who let their rhetoric surpass their honesty. For example, it is easy to say things which are popular within one’s own group although they are antagonistic to others. What requires far more courage is to say things that are conciliatory to others but contrary to what the majority of your own group wants to hear. This is particularly true in an emotionally charged atmosphere.      "Seeking justice'' is a common rationale for engaging in hostile acts or confrontation. But we should remember that our sense of what is "just" is based on our point of view; either as an individual or a group, which of course is limited as well as subjective. We should strongly speak out in defense of those things in which we believe but in doing so, we should be receptive to other viewpoints if we want those whom we are addressing to be open enough to hear our message.      In the- final analysis, most people would rather live in a world free from conflict and violence if only for concern for their loved ones. The more narrow our thinking or closed our mind, the greater the chances for continued conflict. If we are sincerely interested in results concerning harmony; unity, peace and justice, we must be open and flexible in our thinking.      When that happens, all sides will benefit.  **************************************************************************The Robert S Abbott Theme Song************************************************************************** We Can Live Together music by: Keith Williams & Phil Morrisonwords by: Phil Morrison Go to any city - and this is what you'll seeEvery race of people - and that's how it should beThe problem that we're facing - is not just only colorThe answer's found with justice - & how we treat each other Hispanic, Asian, Black & White...families are the sameRaising kids to do what's right...regardless of your nameIf we all looked'd be a boring placeWe're all from different cultures...but still one human race (chorus)WE CAN LIVE TOGETHER - but first we've got to tryNo race is superior - it's time to unifyWE CAN LIVE TOGETHER - respecting one anotherWe're from the same Creator - so that makes me your brother..(chorus) It's time to live in harmony - 'cause this is our homeWe can find solutions - but we can't do it aloneIf racism and justice - were talked about in schoolThe people in this country - might use the golden rule WE CAN LIVE TOGETHER - and that's how it should beThe world is growing stronger - because of unityWE CAN LIVE TOGETHER - and then that day will comeWhen we will have prosperity and peace for everyone (c) 2007 pbm/ckw

- - read more about Phil Morrison on his website: