Wheelock College

Spirituality Based Dialogues on Race

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A Missing Ingredient

A spiritually based approach may well be an important missing ingredient in efforts to bridge the racial divide in America. This notion may appear naive or implausible to many. But when you consider the emotional quagmire and boxing match those immersed in the issues of race seem unable to extract themselves from, a different vantage point certainly may be worthy of exploring.

What Does a "Spirituality Based Approach" Mean?

First, let us define the spirituality based approach. Spirituality is not necessarily connected to a particular religious affiliation. In his book, Seeing Heaven in the Face of Black Men, diversity trainer and author Tod Ewing defines spirtuality as "...an inner quality and depth of consciousness that realizes interconnectedness with all humanity. When drawn upon it moves us to act from our noble self. It also provides the strength to transform (not deny) the emotional pain and anger associated with race, into the motivation, will and strength to build unity and justice. It is a capacity, beyond emotional strength. It is a transcending power and energy that lifts, bonds, and heals."

Mandela, Gandhi and King tapped it. Those involved in reconciliation efforts in Rwanda and South Africa tapped it. Countless others have tapped it. Instead of hatred, Mamie Till Mobley chose to forgive the murderers of her fourteen year old son, Emmett, who was brutally murdered and thrown in a Mississippi swamp for "insulting a white woman." Too often we admire the ability afforded by spirituality in others, yet fail to choose it for ourselves.

The Rationale

Issues of race in the United States of America are associated with a long, emotional, and painful history. There are deep wounds and passionate feelings and, sometimes, hair trigger responses from all sides. If we are to maximize the potential to achieve sustainable solutions, those of us involved could explore our higher or more spiritual nature as described above.

The Premise

The premise of a spiritually based approach to race dialogue and solution finding is based on the concept human beings have both a higher and lower nature. The higher nature is characterized by a consciousness of interconnectedness, the spirit of service, and by such virtues as humility, selflessness, detachment, love, justice, fair mindedness and kindness. The lower nature is characterized by a sense of otherness and separateness and an individualistic survival of the fittest mentality. Qualities related to our lower nature include a sense of superiority, a need to dominate or be right, selfishness, envy, fear, jealousy, anger and a win/lose mindset. Both higher and lower nature qualities are found in all human beings. Dialogue and solutions motivated from a sense of interconnectedness, based on unity, love and justice can impact change more effectively than dialogues, solutions or compromises based on fear.

Science reinforces a spiritual approach

Ironically enough, science is rapidly proving that mindsets and behaviors that have traditionally been inspired by a sense of spirituality, such as described above, have practical application to social problems. Faith and reason then are coming to the same conclusions. So spirituality is not a weak, superfluous or incongruent response. It is a real and viable force for change!

For more information on workshops and presentations on Spirituality Based Dialogues on Race please contact sbdialogues@wheelock.edu.

National Center for Race Amity
200 The Riverway, Boston, Massachusetts 02215 | 617.879.2025
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