Saturday, September 3, 2011

James Cone and the Hope of Witness.

I stumbled across this interview between Bill Moyers and James Cone through a friend's posting on facebook. I was simply enthralled with the interview and at one point felt the same feeling I usually feel when attempting to engage in the issue of race: hopelessness. As a white woman, despite all my desires and good intentions to be some sort of agent for change in relation to racism and discrimination in society, I often wonder what I can do. More than that, I wonder what ability (and right) I have to even engage in any witness to racism and the black experience given my rather privileged life as a white, upper-middle class individual. And then the inevitable guilt sets in as I realize that I can't exempt myself from both past and present responsibility in terms of racism, oppression, and discrimination. While I don't think guilt is altogether useless (I'm thankful Mark Lewis Taylor recognizes the sometimes important role of guilt/reflection in these contexts here), it doesn't offer a constructive way forward. I was thankful for this interview with Cone because not only is he unrelenting in his call to honesty and communication, but he is also charitable and inclusive to those non-black individuals who seek to bring hope and change to the issue of racism. The following was particularly challenging and powerful to me as I hope it will be for you:

Moyers: What can people do to bring about this beloved community you talk about?

Cone: First, it is to believe that it can happen. Don't lose hope. If people lose hope, they give up in despair. Black people were slaves for 246 years, but they didn't lose hope.

Moyers: Why didn't they?

Cone: They didn't lose hope because there was a power and reality in their experience that let them know they were apart of this human race just like everybody else and they fought for that.

Moyers: So, I have hope. What's next?

Cone: The next step is to connect with people who also have hope. Blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asian, all different kinds of people. They have to connect, be around, and organize with people who have hope.

Moyers: What do you mean organize?

Cone: You organize to make the world the way it ought to be. And that is the beloved community. You have to have some witness to that even if it is just a small witness of just you and me.

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