Oct 032019

I always say that you can identify the American team in any international sporting competition because it will be the team full of a motley assortment of skin colors, facial characteristics, and religious wear. When we are watching international sporting events like the Women’s World Cup, the Olympics, or any other sporting event where the USA makes an appearance, Americans are prone to a sense of swelling pride when we see “our team”. No matter where we are on the spectrum of “wokeness”, those kids in the red, white and blue are our kids and we root for them like they were our own family.

USA Gymnastics: Aug. 9 - Women's Team Final &emdash; USA, winners of the team gold medal
Team USA Women’s Gymnastics Team, Rio Olympics, 2016
Photo credit: John Cheng, USA Gymnastics

But when things get heated, we are quick to draw our battle lines defining who is in and who is out. Who is “us” and who are “them.”

Pulling everyone into the “us” bucket doesn’t mean that we all must agree. We do, however, have to recognize their humanity and rediscover our own by meaningfully connecting with “them” and recognizing we are all “us.”

As so often happens, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr said it best:

“We were all involved in the death of John Kennedy. We tolerated hate; we tolerated the sick stimulation of violence in all walks of life; and we tolerated the differential application of the law, which said that a man’s life was sacred only if we agreed with his views.” (emphasis added)

– Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, from Letter From a Birmingham Jail

This brief video communicates more in 1 minute than I could in 15 paragraphs. I hope you’ll take a look at it.

I know that engaging with people outside of our chosen “tribe” is difficult. It’s scary, exasperating and time-consuming. That’s also how I know it’s right. Dr. King never stopped engaging with people who violently disagreed with him. And he never maligned their intelligence or humanity.

For more thoughts on this, I would like to refer you to an essay by my very good friend, Corregan Brown, from his blog, Reforged, called Meeting Rev. Dr. King for the First Time. Brown has a predilection to engage with all people and call them all his own, even when their views are diametrically opposed to his. He is FAR better at this than I am, so it’s my pleasure to leave you with his words:

“Let’s get into real relationship with people not like us. Let’s believe them when they tell us about their suffering, rather than assuming that, unlike ourselves, they are being influenced by the media and simply need to have their eyes opened so they can rightly know good and evil, like ourselves.”

-Corregan Brown

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