A New Bottom Line

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Creating Freedom, Equality and Peace for All Americans

“You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.” ~ Albert Einstein

To atone is to repair a wrongdoing or an injury to another person. When we atone, we restore the wronged party back to his or her natural state of innocence. Atonement is, by its very a nature, a spiritual concept and a spiritual process. To understand that we are all innocent is to restore our perceptions so that we perceive the the oneness in all of humanity. Atonement requires that we look at ourselves as extensions of the Divine and, therefore, of one another, and in so doing acknowledge that any action taken to uplift or to suppress one another has a reciprocal effect on oneself. Atonement requires that we elevate our consciousness.

The uprising we are experiencing in our nation is the ripple effect of more than 300 years of oppressing our black brothers and sisters. For more than 300 years, black Americans have either had no access to affordable housing, living wage jobs and education, or their access to housing, jobs and education has been significantly less available than that of white Americans and has come at a far greater cost. Watch this Ted Talk for a compelling story of how one African-American man struggled to raise his family in post-civil rights oppression.

In his article for The New York Times, When Whites Just Don’t Get It,” journalist Nikolas Kristof shared some startling statistics about the black American experience:

• The net worth of the average black household in the United States is $6,314, compared with $110,500 for the average white household, according to 2011 census data. The gap has worsened in the last decade, and the United States now has a greater wealth gap by race than South Africa did during apartheid. (Whites in America on average own almost 18 times as much as blacks; in South Africa in 1970, the ratio was about 15 times.)

• The black-white income gap is roughly 40 percent greater today than it was in 1967.

• A black boy born today in the United States has a life expectancy five years shorter than that of a white boy.

• Black students are significantly less likely to attend schools offering advanced math and science courses than white students. They are three times as likely to be suspended and expelled, setting them up for educational failure.

• Because of the catastrophic experiment in mass incarceration, black men in their 20s without a high school diploma are more likely to be incarcerated today than employed, according to a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Nearly 70 percent of middle-aged black men who never graduated from high school have been imprisoned.

The recent riots in Baltimore are evidence of the injustice that is occurring throughout our nation and is a cry for change. It is a cry for love.

(Read: What Ferguson Can Teach Us About Love)

This video of the friends and family of Freddie Gray, demonstrate the reality of what centuries of oppression looks and feels like.

As one man in the video explains: “What gets results? If I ask you something nicely twenty million times and you don’t do it, and I finally piss in your cereal and then you change. Then whatever I did … it wasn’t wrong. It may have been disgusting, rude, hurtful, painful whatever, but it wasn’t wrong if it brings about change.” And we desperately need change in this country.

We need to atone for our actions. We need to be a part of the solution for creating a peaceful and just nation for all Americans.

Atonement

To begin the process of atonement, our nation must first make a sincere and full apology to the African-American community for the atrocities committed against individuals who were enslaved and their ancestors and for the atrocities that continue to present. Two attempts at apologizing have passed through the United States Congress: one in the House and one in the Senate.

H. RES. 194

In the House of Representatives, U. S.,

July 29, 2008

RESOLUTION

Whereas millions of Africans and their descendants were enslaved in the United States and the 13 American colonies from 1619 through 1865;

Whereas slavery in America resembled no other form of involuntary servitude known in history, as Africans were captured and sold at auction like inanimate objects or animals;

Whereas Africans forced into slavery were brutalized, humiliated, dehumanized, and subjected to the indignity of being stripped of their names and heritage;

Whereas enslaved families were torn apart after having been sold separately from one another;

Whereas the system of slavery and the visceral racism against persons of African descent upon which it depended became entrenched in the Nation’s social fabric;

Whereas slavery was not officially abolished until the passage of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1865 after the end of the Civil War;

Whereas after emancipation from 246 years of slavery, African-Americans soon saw the fleeting political, social, and economic gains they made during Reconstruction eviscerated by virulent racism, lynchings, disenfranchisement, Black Codes, and racial segregation laws that imposed a rigid system of officially sanctioned racial segregation in virtually all areas of life;

Whereas the system of de jure racial segregation known as “Jim Crow,” which arose in certain parts of the Nation following the Civil War to create separate and unequal societies for whites and African-Americans, was a direct result of the racism against persons of African descent engendered by slavery;

Whereas a century after the official end of slavery in America, Federal action was required during the 1960s to eliminate the dejure and defacto system of Jim Crow throughout parts of the Nation, though its vestiges still linger to this day;

Whereas African-Americans continue to suffer from the complex interplay between slavery and Jim Crow—long after both systems were formally abolished—through enormous damage and loss, both tangible and intangible, including the loss of human dignity, the frustration of careers and professional lives, and the long-term loss of income and opportunity;

Whereas the story of the enslavement and de jure segregation of African-Americans and the dehumanizing atrocities committed against them should not be purged from or minimized in the telling of American history;

Whereas on July 8, 2003, during a trip to Goree Island, Senegal, a former slave port, President George W. Bush acknowledged slavery’s continuing legacy in American life and the need to confront that legacy when he stated that slavery “was . . . one of the greatest crimes of history . . . The racial bigotry fed by slavery did not end with slavery or with segregation. And many of the issues that still trouble America have roots in the bitter experience of other times. But however long the journey, our destiny is set: liberty and justice for all.”;

Whereas President Bill Clinton also acknowledged the deep-seated problems caused by the continuing legacy of racism against African-Americans that began with slavery when he initiated a national dialogue about race;

Whereas a genuine apology is an important and necessary first step in the process of racial reconciliation;

Whereas an apology for centuries of brutal dehumanization and injustices cannot erase the past, but confession of the wrongs committed can speed racial healing and reconciliation and help Americans confront the ghosts of their past;

Whereas the legislature of the Commonwealth of Virginia has recently taken the lead in adopting a resolution officially expressing appropriate remorse for slavery and other State legislatures have adopted or are considering similar resolutions; and

Whereas it is important for this country, which legally recognized slavery through its Constitution and its laws, to make a formal apology for slavery and for its successor, Jim Crow, so that it can move forward and seek reconciliation, justice, and harmony for all of its citizens: Now, therefore, be it

That the House of Representatives—

(1)acknowledges that slavery is incompatible with the basic founding principles recognized in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal;

(2)acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow;

(3)apologizes to African Americans on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow; and

(4)expresses its commitment to rectify the lingering consequences of the misdeeds committed against African Americans under slavery and Jim Crow and to stop the occurrence of human rights violations in the future.

 

111th CONGRESS

1st Session

S. CON. RES. 26

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

June 18, 2009

Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

CONCURRENT RESOLUTION

Apologizing for the enslavement and racial segregation of African-Americans.

Whereas during the history of the Nation, the United States has grown into a symbol of democracy and freedom around the world;

Whereas the legacy of African-Americans is interwoven with the very fabric of the democracy and freedom of the United States;

Whereas millions of Africans and their descendants were enslaved in the United States and the 13 American colonies from 1619 through 1865;

Whereas Africans forced into slavery were brutalized, humiliated, dehumanized, and subjected to the indignity of being stripped of their names and heritage;

Whereas many enslaved families were torn apart after family members were sold separately;

Whereas the system of slavery and the visceral racism against people of African descent upon which it depended became enmeshed in the social fabric of the United States;

Whereas slavery was not officially abolished until the ratification of the 13th amendment to the Constitution of the United States in 1865, after the end of the Civil War;

Whereas after emancipation from 246 years of slavery, African-Americans soon saw the fleeting political, social, and economic gains they made during Reconstruction eviscerated by virulent racism, lynchings, disenfranchisement, Black Codes, and racial segregation laws that imposed a rigid system of officially sanctioned racial segregation in virtually all areas of life;

Whereas the system of de jure racial segregation known as “Jim Crow”, which arose in certain parts of the United States after the Civil War to create separate and unequal societies for Whites and African-Americans, was a direct result of the racism against people of African descent that was engendered by slavery;

Whereas the system of Jim Crow laws officially existed until the 1960s—a century after the official end of slavery in the United States—until Congress took action to end it, but the vestiges of Jim Crow continue to this day;

Whereas African-Americans continue to suffer from the consequences of slavery and Jim Crow laws—long after both systems were formally abolished—through enormous damage and loss, both tangible and intangible, including the loss of human dignity and liberty;

Whereas the story of the enslavement and de jure segregation of African-Americans and the dehumanizing atrocities committed against them should not be purged from or minimized in the telling of the history of the United States;

Whereas those African-Americans who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow laws, and their descendants, exemplify the strength of the human character and provide a model of courage, commitment, and perseverance;

Whereas on July 8, 2003, during a trip to Goree Island, Senegal, a former slave port, President George W. Bush acknowledged the continuing legacy of slavery in life in the United States and the need to confront that legacy, when he stated that slavery “was . . . one of the greatest crimes of history . . . The racial bigotry fed by slavery did not end with slavery or with segregation. And many of the issues that still trouble America have roots in the bitter experience of other times. But however long the journey, our destiny is set: liberty and justice for all.”;

Whereas President Bill Clinton also acknowledged the deep-seated problems caused by the continuing legacy of racism against African-Americans that began with slavery, when he initiated a national dialogue about race;

Whereas an apology for centuries of brutal dehumanization and injustices cannot erase the past, but confession of the wrongs committed and a formal apology to African-Americans will help bind the wounds of the Nation that are rooted in slavery and can speed racial healing and reconciliation and help the people of the United States understand the past and honor the history of all people of the United States;

Whereas the legislatures of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the States of Alabama, Florida, Maryland, and North Carolina have taken the lead in adopting resolutions officially expressing appropriate remorse for slavery, and other State legislatures are considering similar resolutions; and

Whereas it is important for the people of the United States, who legally recognized slavery through the Constitution and the laws of the United States, to make a formal apology for slavery and for its successor, Jim Crow, so they can move forward and seek reconciliation, justice, and harmony for all people of the United States: Now, therefore, be it

That the sense of the Congress is the following:

(1)Apology for the enslavement and segregation of African-Americans

The Congress—

(A)acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow laws;

(B)apologizes to African-Americans on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow laws; and

(C)expresses its recommitment to the principle that all people are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and calls on all people of the United States to work toward eliminating racial prejudices, injustices, and discrimination from our society.

(2)Disclaimer

Nothing in this resolution—

(A)authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or

(B)serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States.

Passed the Senate June 18, 2009.

NANCY ERICKSON,

Secretary

The above resolutions are not widely known amongst Americans and had little to no effect in terms of repairing any harm committed by the United States against African Americans. The resolutions acknowledge the following:

  • That slavery was brutal, cruel and inhumane;
  • That millions of African Americans were impacted;
  • That African-American families were devastated and torn apart;
  • That African Americans contributed greatly to the development of this nation;
  • That Reconstruction and Jim Crow were politically, socially and economically oppressive and unjust;
  • That African Americans continue to suffer to this day as a result;
  • That the United States apologizes for the actions that caused oppression, suffering and brutality;
  • That the United States is committed to the basic tenets of the American constitution that “all people are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
  • And, that nothing in this statement is an agreement to a settlement or that the United States, by apologizing, is authorizing any claim against itself.

These two resolutions are completely ineffective as apologies because they do not consist of the four basic components of a full apology. To be effective, an apology must consist of the following:

1) It must have a statement of regret for what happened.

2) It must have a clear “I’m sorry” statement.

3) It must offer a request for forgiveness.

4) It must make a commitment to repair the harm.

 

Ineffective Apologies Can Cause More Harm Than Good

The resolutions passed by the House and Senate offer only one component of an apology, which is the statement of regret. The resolutions clearly outline the harm committed against African Americans by the United States and its people. The resolutions make a clear statement of regret, but both fail to offer a genuine “I am sorry statement.” To state, “we apologize” is not as impactful as to state, “we are deeply sorry,” or “we are profoundly sorry.” To “apologize” is often a statement of formality or a courtesy; whereas, to make a genuine “I am sorry” statement is to take responsibility for one’s actions. “I am sorry” is much more heartfelt and is experienced as such by the party on the receiving end of the apology. The above resolutions do not offer a request for forgiveness. To request forgiveness is to engage the injured party in the process. It opens a door for reconciliation and invites the injured party into the process. It makes the apology a two-way dialogue and honors the fact that the injured party has a say in the apology process. The House and Senate resolutions do not offer any statements that address how the harm will be repaired or even that there is a responsibility to repair the harm. In fact, the resolutions cause additional harm by making a clear statement of non-accountability by including the disclaimer statement: “Nothing in this resolution— (A) authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or (B) serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States.” The resolutions offer no reparations or compensation for the more than 300 years of oppression and discrimination. They do not take into account how African Americans might feel. They do not take into account the anger, sense of separateness, fear, alienation and severe stress that African Americans might experience as a result of the hundreds of years of oppression and discrimination. The resolutions are void of empathy for the black American experience.

Without a full apology by the offending party to the injured party, the ability for either party to build trust is extraordinarily difficult. In order for our nation to achieve equality and freedom in the age of mass incarceration, we must engage a process designed to develop trust, which will only come with a full apology. A necessary step in atoning as a nation is the profound need for a full apology for the cruel, inhumane and unjust treatment of African Americans that has persisted in this country since the first African was captured and brought here against his will accompanied with an actionable plan to repair the wrongdoing. This apology and plan must be developed in partnership with the African-American community who has the most comprehensive understanding of the impact of the harm and how it needs to be repaired. An important and necessary component of a full apology is the acknowledgment that the treatment of black Americans, including the extraordinary rate in which we incarcerate black men and women is in fact the new Jim Crow. This full apology must come from the highest leader of our nation—the United States president—and it must be delivered as a call to action to end racial discrimination at every level, including within our criminal justice system where racism is especially prevalent and widely researched and documented.

A necessary component of the full apology must include an official statement of an end to the War on Drugs, which has been largely waged against black Americans, announcing it as a failed initiative, and offer a public, sincere and actionable apology to all victims of the War on Drugs for the prejudice, discrimination, oppression and violence they have been legally subjected to in the over four decades the United States as waged a war against its own people. There must be a public acknowledgment that the War on Drugs was deliberately, and almost exclusively, waged in African-American communities. The acknowledgment of this is not to convey some truth that the black community is unaware of, but rather to validate and take ownership of a fact that is widely known by African Americans. This acknowledgment is necessary as a statement of accountability and is an essential step in repairing the harm and taking initial steps towards building trust. In addition, the United States must publicly address that it has criminalized addiction and make amends to the millions of people who have been victims of the War on Drugs, offering treatment, suspending prison sentences, and providing means for the individuals to begin anew in society.


Elevating Our Consciousness

In order for our nation achieve freedom and equality, we must restore our perceptions so that we perceive the Divine that is in us all. To do this, we must elevate our consciousness. Every person is the manager of his or her own mind, and innate to the human experience is the concept of free will. As the managers of our own minds, we have the ability to choose. Even when we cannot choose our circumstances or our surroundings, we can choose the consciousness from which we observe, engage and react to our environment. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl wrote, “When we are no longer able to change the situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” We are challenged to elevate our consciousness.

Our brains are extraordinarily powerful. Lao Tzu, the father of Taoism, taught, “Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become your character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” A simpler way of stating this is what we think we create. We are all endowed by our Creator with the powerful gift of creation, and we have the ability to choose what we create, and we are always creating. We can choose to create freedom and equality for all people, or we can choose to create separation, inequality and fear. We are granted the power to choose, which is the power to create the reality of our existence. If we choose freedom and equality, we will transform into a peaceful people. And as we transform as individuals, the world around us transforms in response. Freedom and equality are possible and always have been, but it will require that a critical mass of individuals elevate their consciousness in order to transform the collective conscious.

(Read: Prayers for Peace)

The neuroscience behind this concept of conscious choice is that neurons that fire together wire together. In other words, as we consciously choose new thoughts, we literally change our brains as new neural networks are created. As we change our brains through intentional thought, we change our actions. As we change our actions, we change what is manifesting around us. The converse is also true: as we cease having certain thoughts—thoughts of separation, inequality, fear—those neural networks disconnect and cease to exist; when those thoughts cease, the manifestations associated with them also cease.

When we focus and meditate on freedom, equality and peace, we rewire our brains for this existence. By turning our focus to a certain experience, we create that existence through our focused intentions. It is often said that “practice makes perfect,” but when it comes to the brain, those in the neuroscience community know that practice actually makes permanent.

 

Create Real and Permanent Change

To create real and permanent change in our nation, we must work together in shifting our collective consciousness so that we all hold the space for freedom, equality and peace for all. This is not to say that meditation alone will change the world, but a daily practice in meditation paired with the action that derives from the shift in consciousnesses born out of that meditation will, in fact, change who we each are as individuals and therefore who we collectively are as a nation.

0db6a57Robyn Short has ghostwritten numerous books and is the founder and publisher of GoodMedia Press. She is a student of A Course in Miracles, a self-study system of spiritual psychotherapy. Robyn is a passionate believer in peace and social justice. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Psychology from Auburn University, a Masters of Liberal Arts from Southern Methodist University and a Masters in Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution from Southern Methodist University. She is a certified mediator and author of Prayers for Peace and the children’s book Peace People, co-authored with Nanon Williams.  Robyn is available for book signings and to speak on topics of peace building and nonviolence, especially as it relates to these core issues. Contact Robyn by email.

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