by Robert Rack734714_290127611115251_1220614340_n

Rack is the Co-Founder of Beyond Civility and the retired Chief Circuit Mediator at the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

My late ex-father in law, Bob inherited a WASPish worldview from his father. He claimed he didn’t like Catholics, Jews, Blacks…pretty much anyone not White, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant.

One Christmas dinner he looked over his warmly assembled family and shook his head in amazement. His four children surrounded him, three now with significant others: His eldest, a summa cum laude college graduate with me, her Catholic husband; his only son, a high school football star and Air Force Academy graduate, home from Korea with his new Buddhist Korean bride; his second eldest daughter, an athlete and soon-to-be college graduate (with honors) and her Socialist and probably atheist Italian boyfriend. Every one was hard working, loving and devoted to family, Bob’s principle values.

I watched him wrestle with the conflict between what he was taught to believe and the truth he had come to feel until the affection he felt for and from all of us finally won. And I think he was grateful…for us, and to be relieved of the bigotry that never really suited him anyway.

The antidote to divisive biases and prejudice can’t be more segregation and self-justifying blaming. It must lie in more engagement, in relationships that can bring us face to face with felt truths that displace stereotypes, erode implicit biases and override prejudices.

Unfortunately, sociological evidence suggests we’re doing the opposite. Increasingly, we’re marrying, living around and socializing only with like-minded people.

I know I do.

2 thoughts on “the power of relationship”

  1. So well said. Thank you.

    And thank you for busting yourself at the end there. Because we are all guilty of the same thing: wanting to stay in the safe zone where the people around us look like us, talk like us, believe like us, and therefore affirm that who we are is “good” and “worthy” and “right.”

    It’s human nature to seek that sameness. (It has, after all, ensured survival for many groups of people, hasn’t it?) And surrounding ourselves with people like us is not something we should be ashamed of, but rather something to be aware of, to embrace–and to examine.

    What fears are we projecting when we discard or devalue other people for the way they look, or where they go to church, or who they love, or even what kind of car they drive? What are we recognizing in these people that we are not comfortable with in ourselves? What do we see in them that we hate or fear about ourselves?

    If we can ask those questions, and attempt to answer them….then, then we’ll be making some progress.

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