The commentaries and graphics appearing
on this Web site are presented as an open and
free source for
the enlightenment of visitors. However,
our primary aim is to stimulate
critical thinking and support for the subsequent resolution of diversity issues.
"Synergistic Equation: 1 plus 1 equals 11. When this
equation is applied, the 'me' perspective morphs into
the universal 'we' condition. The result is that every effort
happens exponentially for the common good, i.e., teamwork
within the group trumps working alone." 1Plus1Equals11.com
. Make sure you're up to the task of service.
Being a community Facilitator (Moderator) is not a way to attain personal power or recognition. It’s not about you, it’s about the users. They own the community. They’re the ones that will shape it, guide it and develop it. It’s the role of the Facilitator to understand the will of the community and to act as an advocate and a tool of the community. You will have tremendous power and visibility. But if you attempt to make it about you, the community will take your power away in a heartbeat. Either they’ll find a way to make your life miserable, they’ll push you out, or they’ll simply abandon the community for greener pastures. Functional communities are the embodiment of democracy. Dictators (even benevolent ones) are not tolerated.
. Remember that the community exists for it’s own sake, not for yours.
Communities are not about supporting the onramp, the sysops, corporate sponsors, product groups, you, me or any specific individual. They exist because a group of people decided that they want it to exist. No company, organization or individual can mandate a community. It’s also not a case of “If you build it they will come”. You can build an infrastructure and you can plant the seeds of a community by providing interesting, relevant content and conversation. But ultimately, it comes down to the collective will of the users whether the community will live or die.
As a Facilitator, you’re the caretaker of the community, not the “owner”. You need to encourage the contributors and discourage the disruptive influences. You need to seed content when things are going slowly. You need to diagnose problems, lack of interest or frustration and encourage discussion to resolve the issues. A gardener can’t make a garden grow. They can simply plant seeds, water it when there’s no rain, fertilize the soil, trim away the dead plants and weeds, and occasionally rotate the crops to keep the soil productive.
. Engage, recruit and empower those that are willing to help from the ranks of the community.
You are a tool of the community. But you can’t build anything with just one tool. Recognize your own strengths and weaknesses and engage other members of the community to work with you. Many well-intentioned Facilitators have burnt out by trying to do everything by themselves. In most well-developed communities, the members will end up taking control whether you like it or not. Encourage those that are supporting the will of the people, and try to refocus those that are working against the greater whole. Publicly acknowledge, reward and empower those that are helping to build the community
. Keep the conversations relevant, interesting and exciting.
Don’t censor content, but if the noise starts to surpass that actual useful signal, you need to step in and try to get things back on track. Many communities will go through phases of “irrelevant chatter”, so don’t be too quick to shut things down. Occasionally people need to blow off steam and these flights of fancy are one way that they do it. But when people start to get annoyed or your core community members are getting lost in the noise, it’s time to step in.
A community has to provide some sort of value or it will die. That value can be unique information, social interaction, entertainment, or something totally unexpected. If your community is happy with the direction, support it. If they aren’t, intervene. But don’t assume that you, personally, are the measure of that value. Watch the feedback and conversation and if in doubt, ask your community.
. Allow the community to change course even if you disagree with the direction.
It’s not about you. If you get to the point where the direction of the community has become something that you can’t support, then get out. I know that's harsh, but it’s very difficult to be an effective advocate for something that you personally disagree with. Talk with your users. Express your concerns and figure out the best way to help them reach their goals. If the best way is to replace you, then work to transition out gracefully, professionally and without being a jerk about it.
If the community begins to fragment and there are clear factions forming, consider splitting the community into different groups. People evolve and so do communities, so don’t stand in the way of that evolution. When it makes sense to do so, support and encourage changes, splits, mergers or even entirely new directions without alienating the people themselves.
. Take risks - Don’t be afraid of failure - Admit mistakes.
You’re human and so are the members of your community. They’re going to want to try new things, push boundaries and experiment. As Facilitator, you need to facilitate these activities, find ways to limit the risk and then either adopt the changes or discard them without blame, bad feelings or any implied loss of respect for the people that suggested them. If you aren’t taking risks, you’re stagnating.
So work with your community to encourage new thinking and new ideas and don’t be afraid to admit when something goes wrong. Even if it’s not your fault, you can earn a lot of good will by accepting responsibility instead of allowing blame to fall on community members (even if they were clearly responsible). Allowing the lynching party to go after a community member will just create dissent and make others think twice before suggesting a new idea. By focusing the attention away from specific individuals, you can help to develop a team mentality without really creating any risk for yourself personally.
. Facilitate, don’t direct.
Occasionally, you’ll have a strong opinions or ideas on a subject. As a Facilitator, you should try to take a back seat and encourage discussion and debate before throwing your own opinion out there. Ask questions. Call out the experts and active members of the community to comment. Encourage debate. It’s easy for a conference to become a soapbox for the Facilitator. But it’s not about you. If you guide discussions into a narrowly defined “back alley”, you kill the dialog and the community becomes nothing more that your personal journal. You need to encourage and inspire your community to communicate.
It may take some practice, but pay attention to how people respond to your postings and watch for the “dead end”. Diffuse threats to the community politely, publicly and with respect, but avoid dictatorial threats or using your authority/power to shut someone down as a “first response”. Engage other members of the community in determining more decisive responses if discussion, facilitation, or gentle suggestions don’t do the trick.
. Don’t be a corporate mouthpiece.
Some of you or your community members may feel the need to represent employers, services, products, etc. That’s fine. But don’t try to use the community as a marketing tool or a corporate soapbox. If the community smells a “corporate agenda”, members will treat it like a dead skunk. I can’t say it enough; The community is about it’s members, not you. Not your company. Not your product. Even if the conference is “GumbyTech, Inc.”, it’s not about GumbyTech. It’s about the people interested in GumbyTech, and what the company offers them. If you turn it into a sales and marketing tool, you’ll have sold out the community, and basically told them that you care more about your sales than interacting with your customers. Communities have to consist of dialogs, and not “targeted communications”.
If you aren’t prepared to have honest, genuine dialog, then you don’t belong in a community. Keep this in mind as Facilitator. Throw the press releases, product announcements and other one-way communications into the Files sections and don’t interrupt the conversation with it. Think about how you’d feel if someone sat down next to you on a bus, delivered a sales pitch, and then walked away without even waiting for a response. That’s what these unilateral postings are in the Community space. They can sometimes be disguised as dialog, but you’ll recognize them almost immediately as propaganda.
. Be genuine.
You can be professional and still be genuine. Be a human being. Share personal insight and feelings on subjects. Share personal stories if they’re relevant. Be honest, and be approachable. A community is an ongoing social event and it’s about people, not jobs, titles, roles or any sort of posturing. As a Facilitator, this is especially important. People need to feel that you’re approachable and working on their behalf. They also want to make sure that you’re supporting them and not your own agenda. The best way to help them understand that is to talk with them.
Engage in the dialogs and encourage your members to participate. Also, try to be as transparent as possible. Don’t expose people that have contacted you in confidence. But explain decisions that you may have to make and talk about difficult or controversial issues that may arise (like banning disruptive members, removing postings, etc.)
. Provide a release valve.
Make sure that you clearly and repeatedly let people know how to get in touch with you and how to submit complaints or issues. It may be obvious to you and long time members of your community, but if you don’t make sure that everyone knows that there’s a release valve somewhere, issues and frustrations will leak back into the community by default. Some of the issues should be discussed out in the open, but there are also situations where members will want to be more discrete. Make sure that they know how to get a message to you privately.
. Promote and publicize your community leaders and contributors.
Reposting or highlighting content as “Editors Picks”, “Community Highlights”, or some other form of award or recognition can encourage a much deeper level of participation. If a thread is particularly active or a discussion is highly rated or relevant, call it to the attention of others. If there’s a related community that might have a particular interest in the discussion, send a note to their Facilitator (visible in the Conference information pages). You may draw new members into your community, or provide some visibility for your own community members.
. Engage the grey matter.
Use your brain. Don’t get caught up in rules, politics or the letter of the terms of service. Use common sense and respect for your community members as your guiding principles and you’re unlikely to go wrong. -- Source:AgentsOfChange.org
A leader is not elected. A leader is not chosen. A leader is not bought. A leader is self-initiated. A leader anoints him/herself as such. The best leaders lead by example. But, I’ve seen many leaders, most, in fact, who have done great things without being the best examples. There is one common denominator with all great leaders. They all have, the ability to inspire others. Some do it by example; others do it through motivation. And a few, very few, do it by both. A leader is self-judged. A leader is self-worthy. A leader serves that which he/she leads. A leader holds to the standard, and changes it when required.Hari Jiwan Singh Khalsa
I urge 3HO/KRI, and any affiliated organizations, to incorporate programs and requirements whereby Teachers are certified to teach marginalized people, i.e., people of color, especially incarcerated African Americans and First Americans, just as SikhNet is targeting communities of young people (see above), not for the purpose of proselytizing of course, but for the purpose of delivering Kundalini Yoga, the technology of consciousness, the 3HO Healthy, Happy, Holy lifestyle, with realisticallyaffordable(unlike fees below) and conveniently scheduled classes, to include 'free-will-offering' as payment, just as Yogi Bhajan did in the early days of 3HO. In the absence of such effort, I predict 3HO's demographics will remain mostly disproportionately White/Caucasian and irrelevant* to many people of color. In other words, 3HO needs to go where people of color are, not expect people of color to come to 3HO. See statement above.
MySense By Hari Singh Bird
Core Question Are KRI certified teachers routinely
trained to teach ongoing prison classes?
"In response to feedback from an associate, the question for KRI is not whether any Kundalini Yoga classes are taught in prisons.
The core question: Is teaching ongoing Kundalini Yoga classes in prisons adequately promoted, or even mentioned, in KRI's certification process?
1.) Does KRI advocate teachers tithing their teaching time among the candidates for KRI certification as opposed to, by omission, just receiving remuneration?
2.) Are candidates for KRI certification educated as to how to introduce classes to local, state, and federal prison staff, i.e., any special needs of inmates, and any special dos and don'ts?
3.) Are female candidates for KRI certification coached and encouraged as to any special security needs, and the special circumstances they may face in a prison environment?
4.) Are candidates for KRI certification educated on the variety of rules, security considerations, and regulations concerning contraband and other institutional issues?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, I urge KRI to take advantage of any teaching moments that may be languishing for lack of attention as inmates especially are in serious need of the Healthy, Happy, Holy technology." --
BTW: Here's the published KRI fees as of April 2016. Source.
Question: Do you think these fees are affordable to people of color and other minorities?
KRI LEVEL ONE 2016 FOUR WEEK
TEACHER TRAINING COURSE
(paid by April 15)
(closes July 20)
Student or Senior
HGRD Ashram Member
Traveler from Latin America or Africa
Other International Traveler
This training should include orientation on how to introduce Kundalini Yoga classes to prison administrators, how to relate to prison staff, including chaplains of various denominations, corrections officers, Teacher dress code requirements, personal conduct inside the prison, familiarity with prison rules regarding contraband, etc.
NOTE: I was recently advised by a senior Teacher Trainer that KRI is not in the business of tending to Kundalini Yoga classes in prisons and that I should form a different, separate program. I disagree. Why reinvent the wheel?
3HO/KRI and company currently have the organization and expertise in place to at least establish training requirements, and actively encourage and assist Teachers to conduct classes in local, state and federal institutions. I see no reason KRI cannot incorporate this important training and service into their current certification program. See Prison Statistics.
MySense By Hari Singh Bird
Core Question Is more effective outreach needed?
"Looking at the one and only Black Family native to SDI/3HO/KRI
after 49 years from my perspective as a person of color I have to
ask, why are there so few Black Families? How many White Families
vs. Black Families are there after 49 years? Oh sure, there are a few
African-Americans, but they are disproportionately represented.
Think about the optics from the perspective of most people of color.
Do people of color see this disparity as a positive or as a negative?
And how many Black Kundalini Yoga teachers-trainers are there?
Isn't it time for there to be some serious mixed-race adult dialogue?
Detractors: Kindly answer questions before vilifying the messenger.
The key indicator that organizations have come of age is when steps
are taken to permit open dialogue on the issue with people of color.
BTW: When asked if one Black Family after 49 years is an issue
of concern, some Sikh Dharma ministers agreed. But when asked
why the issue is never discussed, they were unable to answer.
Discourse is not meant to stir up feelings of guilt. Discourse is
meant to drive people to action against injustice. Question is
are we mature enough to sit down and discuss issues of diversity, including race, religion, and gender?"
*"In 2013, the population of African Americans, including those of more than one race, was estimated at 45 million, making up 15.2% of the total U.S. population." Source. NOTE: U.S. organizations should reflect about 15 African Americans out of every 100.
Again, I propose that 3HO/KRI formulate a training program for inclusion in their current system that supports and encourages KRI Certified Teachers and Teacher Trainers to tithe their teaching skills pro bono, i.e., 1/10 of their teaching time for no fee, as community seva for prison populations. Prisons are where large numbers of marginalized people, people of need, are concentrated, especially African Americans, and other minorities. I urge financial contributors to make specific donations to this outreach effort, as well. See Example 1 and Example 2.
"Are there even occasional conversations between White eyes and Colored eyes regarding the issues of diversity and racism and
their impact and complexities within the American community today?
Issues to do with diversity are not going away just because we deny
their existence, or because they cause us discomfort to discuss. We
must promote pluralism as did Guru Nanak throughout his ministry."
"Since the election of President Obama many Americans claim to be weary
of the ongoing conversation about racism. Think about the weariness of people of color who have waited for centuries for substantive discourse
to occur. That conversation has only just begun." Hari Singh Bird
"Discourse about racism is not meant to stir up feelings of guilt.
Discourse is meant to drive people to action against injustice.
Question is, are we mature enough to sit down and discuss issues
of diversity, including religion, gender and race?" Hari Singh Bird
"The human mind was created to discriminate, e.g., make choices between
up and down, in and out, black and white, etc. We must remain aware of our
tendency to use our discretionary abilities in order to marginalize and repress
people with whom we differ. We need to constantly see to it that we advocate for pluralism, against tribalism, in the interest of justice as taught by Guru Nanak Dev.
Our choices are to live for each other, or to live at each other." Hari Singh Bird Khalsa
A Testimonial from a Land without Racism
Let’s face it---Thanksgiving blows. The only thing good about it was getting out of school early when I was a kid, but that didn’t even begin to make up for the torture I endured. Every year was a repeated charade with half of the kids in construction-paper Pilgrim hats, eating lunch across the table from the other half of the kids, stripped down to their underwear, with painted stripes on their faces, saying “How!” and extending invitations to their pretend “First Thanksgiving” feasts.
Teachers were no help, as they were busy cutting out stupid construction paper feathers and taping them to kids’ heads. It got worse when Teachers actually tried to “teach” about the so-called historic moment. “Oh, Johnny, do you think the Indians knew how to eat with a fork? No, of course not. They weren’t civilized like us. If you are going to be an Indian at lunch today, you need to eat with your hands! Right, Blue Wing?”
Riiiiight. Ugh, it’s a wonder I learned anything at all in school. Recess brought an onslaught of kids chasing me around school, chanting, “We smokum peace pipe?” As I grew older, these same rituals morphed into adult versions, complete with moccasins appearing on the feet of coworkers who claimed to be 1/64 Cherokee, who spent their lunch break cutting out more godforsaken construction paper feathers for their kids to wear at home. I have spent my whole life dreading the entire third week of November. Most people spent the “holiday” gorging themselves on food, while I spent the day puking out my guts in disgust.
I have to admit that, with the election happening only a few weeks before Thanksgiving, I didn’t think that much would change, but my skepticism was replaced by surprise. Talk about a day to be thankful! I was blown away.
“Thanksgiving” has finally ended.
I woke up on the third Thursday of November to find that it was First Americans Day. As I walked out of my house, it felt like the world was entirely made to serve me. My White friends kept calling it “You Were Here First Day” and spent the day giving me gifts, cooking me food, and deferring to my opinion on everything. This did a lot to soften the calluses that had grown on my personality from years of grade school hell. One of my friends started a tradition that is already gaining popularity. She gives homemade quilts to First American families and jokes, “Don’t worry---these don’t have smallpox.”
The day has become a national day of apology, mourning, and education. The Obamistani government announced that First American legislators will get to pass a piece of legislation of their choosing on that day. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!
I turned on C-SPAN to discover members of the Obamistani Senate reading into the record a list of the many things that have been co-opted from, stolen from, or invented by First American peoples! It shocked me when the scroll at the bottom of the screen stated, “Congress reads First American contributions that made this country great.”
I especially loved that because I had gotten really sick of people telling me how White men (usually Thomas Jefferson) invented or imported so many of the things that I knew my ancestors had created. No one ever believed me when I explained the brilliance and innovation of the people they thought ran around chopping off heads and dancing with buffalo. It kills me that White people think that alcoholism in First Americans is related to our genetics and not to the way they have treated us.
Back in school, my son’s non-First American friends tell me that the nightmare that tormented me---paper hats and feathers and kids making up fake Indian names---has been replaced with a day of meaningful learning for all. They don’t mind that non-First American kids have to go to school, since adults get the day off from work and spend the day in school with children doing fun activities. Everyone learns nonviolent communication and conflict-resolution skills. Now when people say “never again,” they actually have the tools to back up that statement. I hear that Teachers actually know a thing or two about First American history, which still shocks me.
My son’s friends said that their Teachers helped them and their parents build a first-aid kit entirely from plants in the school’s garden. Classrooms celebrate everything from the invention of rubber to medicine. Kids learn how to make their own potato chips, rotate tires, and freeze-dry food. Lunch has moved from hell to health as kids learn about the journey of their food from the earth to their plate so they can eat their food with the honor it deserves.
Instead of creating those awful Pilgrim-and-Indian skits that my idiot Teachers used to ask me to direct, each non-First American wears the name of one First American child who, had it not been for wars, exterminations, disease, relocation, and the host of tools that were used to systematically remove my people from this land, might have lived a full and prosperous life. My son’s friends wrote some pretty touching mini-biographies imagining what each young person’s life might have been like had they been given the chance to grow up and thrive. I have to say, at least one of the stories brought a tear to my eye. I never knew that White people could show that kind of compassion. Each of these stories is placed in the Museum of First American History in Washington, D.C., creating an ever-growing sense of all the people and potential that were lost.
While everyone else is at school learning about the real history of the country, First American kids get the day off from school. First American families are able to spend the day together, honoring relatives and making plans for successful futures. My family has decided to move our annual reunion to that day. It’s a wonderful, fun time for all of us. For me it sure beats calling in sick to work, hiding out at home, and checking up on my grandmother every year to make sure she hasn’t made good on her threat to crash her neighbors’ dinners by screaming and waving a tomahawk outside their windows. My grandmother is wily like that, but now she’s happy; and I love watching her sit in her favorite rocking chair, telling stories as her great-grand-kids play joyfully all around her. --
The use of the “war on terror” as a broad designation of the project of 21st-century Western democracy has served as a justification of anti-Muslim racism; it has further legitimized the Israeli occupation of Palestine; it has redefined the repression of immigrants; and has indirectly led to the militarization of local police departments throughout the country. Police departments – including on college and university campuses – have acquired military surplus from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the Department of Defense Excess Property Program. Thus, in response to the recent police killing of Michael Brown, demonstrators challenging racist police violence were confronted by police officers dressed in camouflage uniforms, armed with military weapons, and driving armored vehicles.
The global response to the police killing of a Black teenager in a small mid-Western town suggests a growing consciousness regarding the persistence of U.S. racism at a time when it is supposed to be on the decline. --
"Discourse about racism is not meant to stir up feelings of guilt.
Discourse is meant to drive people to action against injustice.
Question is, are we mature enough to sit down and discuss issues
of diversity, including religion, gender and race?" Hari Singh Bird
America is devolving into a third-world nation. And if we do not immediately halt our elite’s rapacious looting of the public treasury we will be left with trillions in debts, which can never be repaid, and widespread human misery which we will be helpless to ameliorate. Our anemic democracy will be replaced with a robust national police state. The elite will withdraw into heavily guarded gated communities where they will have access to security, goods and services that cannot be afforded by the rest of us. Tens of millions of people, brutally controlled, will live in perpetual poverty. This is the inevitable result of unchecked corporate capitalism. The stimulus and bailout plans are not about saving us. They are about saving them. We can resist, which means street protests, disruptions of the system and demonstrations, or become serfs. --
My family's Thanksgiving on the reservation
is a rebuke to America's colonialism.
A Waln Thanksgiving. Photograph: Courtesy of Frank Waln
When I was a little kid, I was unaware that I am the bastard child of colonisation, born into a reality in which I’ll spend my entire life combating the way the world views me based on propaganda like national sports mascots and tales of the first thanksgiving.
As an adult, Thanksgiving is just more colonialist propaganda masquerading as history – and a day that represents hundreds of years of genocide, persecution and oppression of our people.
So I love the version of the Thanksgiving story in the movie Addams Family Values, because I get to see the Indians win.
Addams Family Values
In the summer camp play depicting the first thanksgiving, all the blond, white kids in their Western hegemonic glory are cast as the Pilgrims. The outcasts of the summer camp – the black, brown and disabled kids – are cast as the Indians, with Wednesday Addams as Pocahontas (despite the fact that the Wampanoags were the first to come into contact with the Pilgrims, and Pocahantas was Powhatan). During the performance, Wednesday disregards the script, gives a speech about the impending colonization the Pilgrims will bring, proclaiming, “The Gods of my tribe have spoken. They have said ‘Do not trust the Pilgrims’” – and then leads a revolt and burns the Pilgrim village to the ground.
I love this scene because the cultural appropriation and racist dialogue usually used in portrayals of Indigenous people on thanksgiving is absent. I was taken in by the illusion that we were finally triumphant – if only in a made-up play, in a movie about a strange, fictional family.See The Case For Dialogue.
My family is Sicangu Lakota, and I was born and raised on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. My family was in no way wealthy, but we were lucky enough to have food on our table when we got together at my grandma’s house to eat every day. My mother taught me to give thanks for the things we have every day, because that’s what Lakotas do.
As a 25-year-old Lakota hip-hop artist, I celebrate life by creating new, true representations for the next generation to look up to instead of make-believe ones. I celebrate life by using my art to speak on indigenous resistance and the injustices indigenous people suffer.
But living on the reservation as a child, the colonialism the holiday represents never occurred to me as we came together every Thanksgiving. I grew up spending every Thanksgiving eating, laughing and spending time with my family.
I now see the historical subtext behind the holiday, and the way some Indigenous folks, including my family, have appropriated the day as a time to celebrate our life. On Thanksgiving, we aren’t celebrating the Mayflower landing in the New World or the systematic genocide that decimated Native populations. We’re enjoying a meal no different than any other meal in our house, but with a little extra food on the table that day. Lakota people don’t need a national holiday to come together as family to eat and give thanks.
But I have a lot of respect for the Indigenous folks who refuse to observe the “holiday” in any way, shape or form.
Because there are more than 560 federally-recognized tribes (and many more unrecognized) in the US alone, I can’t speak for all Indigenous people – their views on Thanksgiving are as varied as their cultures, languages, and traditions.
My family getting together to eat and celebrate our lives on a day that represents the genocide of our ancestors and culture is, in its own way, a “fuck you” to colonialisation. America’s colonial project failed. We’re still here, and we’re keeping our ceremonies and traditions alive. We’re still speaking our languages. We’re living our culture. I’m alive and I know what it means to be Lakota. For that, I give thanks every day. --
Thanks for that article (above). I think it is always great to give thanks, but the Thanksgiving Day in the US have always irritated me because I never see white folks visiting the Indians to say, "thanks for allowing us to kill you and take your land". Most people just follow along without thinking about why and what they are following -- dormant consciousness instead of an awakened one. It is good to see that some American-Indians are putting out their opinions. -- More.
America wiped out years of progress.
Let's have 'the race conversation' for real this time.
Half a century ago, following race riots in Newark that left a nation reeling, the president of the United States appointed a commission – a panel with all the gravitas Lyndon Johnson could give it, and the mission of taking America’s “race conversation” head-on. That body that issued this sharp, devastating conclusion: “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white – separate and unequal.” The only way to avoid this fate, the so-called Kerner Commission declared, would be a response “compassionate, massive and sustained” – action that would require of every American “new attitudes, new understanding, and above all, new will”.
For the next two decades, the United States mustered the will to continue the process of desegregation and moved toward closing racial gaps in wealth, income and education. But then, fired by the “culture wars”, it began to undo this consensus for racial justice.
Predictably, the gaps got worse, and since the late 1980s, we have seen an attendant rise in resegregation.
In 1997, after a decade of these wars, President Bill Clinton signaled a possible change – perhaps even a waning of hostilities – when he announced an “Advisory Board on Race” to advise him “on matters involving race and racial reconciliation”. Clinton recast Rodney King’s famous question – “Can we all just get along?” – by asking: “Can we become one America in the 21st century?
Although Clinton’s panel convened hundreds of meetings and developed dozens more recommendations, it merely called on Americans “to accept and take pride in defining ourselves as a multi-racial democracy”. The board’s rollout was eclipsed by the Monica Lewinsky affair, because Americans would rather talk about sex and scandal than about race and equality.
Ever since, from Barack Obama’s audacity of hope to the burning despair that accompanied Darren Wilson’s non-indictment this week, the “race conversation” has become less a reality than a rhetorical device. Every time toxic, tragic events – a killing, a fire, a riot – reveal the unequal ways that different Americans experience resegregation and state violence, we talk about having a productive conversation, but we never really have it.
Instead, we have reverted a half-century in our racial progress. Nationally, public schools are returning to levels of resegregation unseen since Brown v Board of Education. Urban gentrification debates are really about the displacement of people of color, who are often forced to move into aging, overwhelmingly non-white suburbs such as Ferguson, Missouri, or Sanford, Florida, where Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman.
And so we go on talking about talking, and mostly we go through the motions. When a celebrity or rich person says something explicitly racist, we make a noisy ritual of shunting them to the wings. We are able to do this because the multiculturalism movement succeeded in changing the rules of civility. It has taught us what not to say to each other, but not what to say next. -- The Guardian