Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Disparities: Local Lessons from the Middle East Conflict

The Middle East dominates the news. Events there affect all of us worldwide, whether we acknowledge so or not. If we consider the Middle East conflict a regional issue, we deceive ourselves. Similarly, if we think that its implications for the world are limited to energy and oil, we lack perspective. It's another instance of how racial/ethnic hatred manifests itself, and as such, it has lessons for us locally, nationally, globally.

I've spoken with many Israelis and many Palestinians over the past 5 years. I honestly can't say what opinions I would have held in the 1940s regarding exactly what should happen in Palestine after the British withdrawal in 1948. However, I do know that now, in 2006, the children of Israel/Palestine deserve the opportunity to grow in a nurturing environment, to build their lives, and to contribute productively to a stable society.

The explanations from this side and that side of the conflict remind me of what I saw while living in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Someone can always go back 5 years, 50 years, or 500 years to explain the "rationale" for a killing, a bombing, or other acts of terror. In reality, it's nothing but hatred of "the other". It's inhumanity to others who are not like oneself. It represents a failure to accept people in the here and now and to find ways to move on together to live in an imperfect world that we can make better if we honestly attempt to do so.

Locally, that's what motivates me to address racial disparities. Here and now, we have children of many different backgrounds - all of whom deserve the opportunity to move forward, and all of whom can contribute to the future - if barriers and conflict don't stop us. The initiative of The Minneapolis Foundation, the Itasca Project, and other initiatives similar to these, represent hopful signs that we can address those things that divide us in a region and bring everyone together in search of a better future. It won't be easy to undo what the past has created. Some of today's disparities result from conscious individual choices of a few people to deprive people from another group of opportunities they deserve. Other disparities result from community structures and cultural practices that have existed for centuries. Nonetheless, we can reverse the past; we can eliminate the disparities.

In future blogs, I'll update you more on how we support and collaborate with the active efforts that address this issue.

In the meanwhile, I hope that you reflect on the importance of eliminating racial disparities: What, in your own small or large way, can you do? How can you join with others to shape the future?

(Sorry it's been so long since my last blog. The spring workload was somewhat overwhelming. I'll try to return to offering more frequent thoughts and information.)

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