It’s About Reconciliation

Two weeks ago, I participated in the first Salon 360˚ session, courtesy of my friend, Dennis Pitocco, founder of BIZCATALYST 360˚, 360˚ Nation, GOODWORKS 360˚, and more. Salon 360˚ is a quarterly gathering of people from all over the world, from all walks of life, and from all facets of the human spectrum. The first session was devoted to the topic, “Beyond the Racial Divide: Where Do We Go From Here?”

In the session, and in things that have been written and discussed about it since then, there was much talk about change, about creating a place (the Salon) in which people can be free to say what’s on their minds without fear of emotional reprisal, about listening without judging or feeling compelled to respond or rebut, about opening our minds to different perspectives, about making ourselves uncomfortable by challenging our own positions and biases, about creating new relationships, about walking the proverbial talk, and more.

Afterward, I was perplexed about how to express my thoughts and feelings about the session. I was disarmingly dissatisfied.

I had the impression there were elephants in the room that would be neither acknowledged nor addressed, subtexts that lurked, dark and ominous, like Grendel outside of Hrothgar’s mead hall in Beowulf. I had no idea what to do, what to say, or what to write.

Then, this past Thursday, my dear friend and fellow BIZCATALYST 360˚ scribe, Heather Younger, published “Focusing Live: On the Racial Divide”. As I read, listened, and watched, I felt a two-part realization dawning: (1) We need to acknowledge challenging truths. (2) We need to reconcile those truths in a workable understanding that yields a constructive consensus about the ways in which we can pave a path to a mutually satisfactory middle. And in building toward that middle we may just come to love and respect those we least expect to love and respect.

Challenging Truth #1: All Men Are Created Equal, But All Men Are Not Treated Equally

If you don’t believe racial discrimination is real, read this article by retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, the former Deputy Commander of U.S. Cyber Command and the 20th Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). General Stewart wrote this:

By all accounts, I have truly lived the American dream. I am a first-generation American who rose to the top of my profession — a living embodiment of the ideal that if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything. Yet hard work is not enough for many of my fellow black Americans, who run into institutional barriers, and all too often face deep-seated fear, contempt, resentment, and hatred. I am now part of the “privileged” class, a black man who overcame obstacles to become a three-star general, told by white people that at least things are better than they were, while black people think I can’t possibly understand their anger, frustration, or despair. Neither are right.

And if you don’t think the psychological implications of racial discrimination are real, read this poem by another friend and BIZCATALYST 360˚ scribe, LeTavious Hemingway. What LeTavious describes here is soul-shattering:

I can’t breathe
Because I was sentenced at birth
My melanin determined my worth
Just who are you to judge me on Earth?

I can’t breathe
because I have to teach my son to hold his tongue and hold his breath
One wrong word could mean his death
But even when he complies his life could be stolen by racist theft

The experiences General Stewart recounts in his article — the fear and pain LeTavious conveys in his poem — are obscene, contemptible, inexcusable, heartbreaking, wrong by any measure or criterion, completely unacceptable, and common enough to leave good, right-thinking people appalled and aghast. And it should leave those right-thinking people angry and passionately determined to do something about it.

Challenging Truth #2: All Things Are Not as They Seem

Given the millions of dollars being contributed to Black Lives Matter (BLM), much of it from the White capitalism and White corporations BLM has opted to boycott, wouldn’t it be prudent to examine BLM a little more closely, if for no other reason than to understand its agendas?

If so, this article might be a good place to start. The article says this, in part:

There is a national consensus that the lives of black fellow citizens matter, which has not always been the case in our history. It also suggests strong support for better, fairer policing in minority communities. But that seems far more likely to be because large majorities believe in the principle of the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal rather than because they support the agenda of the organization with the innocuous-sounding name, Black Lives Matter. Fact is, “black lives matter” is a matter of common decency entirely separate from the activist, ideological, left-wing agenda of the BLM group … the arguments that won the day against segregation were rooted in the best American traditions, not in overthrowing those traditions. Distinguishing Black Lives Matter the group from the growing sentiment in favor of racial justice driving the phrase’s popularity is a necessary first step in repeating that history.

With all the objectivity you can muster, please consider these items from the BLM agenda:

  1. Black Lives Matter began as a call to action in response to state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism … the rampant and deliberate violence inflicted on us by the state … the dangerous impacts of anti-Blackness.

Presuming state refers to the United States of America, please ask yourself how violence is sanctioned. Where is state-sanctioned violence rampant and deliberate? What exactly is anti-Blackness?

  1. We acknowledge, respect, and celebrate differences and commonalities. We work vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension, all people. We intentionally build and nurture a beloved community that is bonded together through a beautiful struggle that is restorative, not depleting … To love and desire freedom and justice for ourselves is a prerequisite for wanting the same for others … We embody and practice justice, liberation, and peace in our engagements with one another.

Would we be racist or discriminatory for wondering if there are some folks in Minneapolis and Portland who have reason to question BLM’s commitments to respect, to restorative vs. depleting, to justice, liberation, and peace?

  1. We build a space that affirms Black women and is free from sexism, misogyny, and environments in which men are centered … We dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work “double shifts” so that they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work. We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement.

A black man I know argues LBJ’s Great Society programs were instrumental in creating a culture of subjugation, dependency, and expectation in which (among other things), “Black fathers were systematically replaced with a check.” (His words. Not mine.) Presuming that black man is not anti-Black, why is there no mention of fathers in the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work “double shifts”? What is BLM’s replacement for the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement they propose to disrupt?

Are my questions about BLM and its agenda items racist … or logical?

Are Charles Love’s comments in this article about white wokeness racist … or logical?

It appears that a sleeping giant has been awakened in white America. Most woke whites probably have good intentions, but their symbolic gestures will at best have little effect and at worst do real harm. The campaign against police is a good example. Broad anti-police sentiment has already caused cops to become less proactive in high-crime neighborhoods, with the predictable result that shootings have spiked around the country. Whites are engaging in activism motivated by a misperception about black life that does not comport with reality for most blacks. With their views of blacks as wounded and perpetually oppressed, woke whites would do more good by doing nothing.

We should be sure of our answers to those questions before we go about trying to fix the world.

Before you make up your own mind, you might spend 10 minutes watching this video. If you have the patience and the curiosity, you can spend 43 minutes watching this video.

Do black lives matter? Of course, they do. Any world that compels General Stewart and LeTavious Hemingway to write what they did is a world that needs work. It’s also a world that needs honesty and transparency.


Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brien
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.

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    • The only thing we need to feel right now, Kimberly, is curious: How did we get here? What can we learn? What can we do? What do things mean beneath their surfaces?

      It’s hard to think in an echo chamber. And it’s almost impossible to hear clearly.

      Thank you for being a part of this conversation.