Regrets. Living with Them

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We all have them.
The size of them varies. There are the big ones and the little ones and the ones in between.
They weigh differently on us but they weigh still.
Some date back to childhood, and some are as recent as yesterday’s.
A good portion of them were unavoidable.
We just didn’t know enough, were not mature enough, didn’t think enough, weren’t bold enough.
Regrets may go into hiding, sometimes for long periods of time, but they never go away.
And that’s by design.
Our memory wants us to learn from our mistakes, not keep repeating them.
Our memory wants us to decipher our code and become better at making choices.
If we’re not numbing our minds, by whichever method we select, they always find a way back into our consciousness.
Becoming friends with our regrets is important. It is taking a step toward healing.
They yearn for acceptance, to be embraced. They want our minds to say, ‘Yes, that was me doing that… it was me. I could have been kinder, I could have been wiser, more patient or bolder. But I was not.’ And then they ask of us to understand why we weren’t kinder, wiser, more patient or bolder.
Regrets are not popping up to punish us, they’re coming back to ask us to do the homework of understanding.
Through understanding, our acceptance becomes fuller.
As it does our minds grow deeper and stronger. Keep doing it and it adds up.
Before long we will be on the road to forgiveness. And then moments of peace.
Forgiving ourselves, forgiving others.
For those who persist and keep working with their regrets, deciphering them and letting them enrich us, there is a grand reward. The sense of personal freedom. Knowing who we are. ‘This is me!’ We may call it our core.
And knowing that our core is there, that we’ve had a hand in building it, is a source of great strength.
We found it. We own it. ‘I am making me.’
The uncertainties of the road ahead will then be easier to face and manage.
Years and years ago, when I was a freshman in college, while taking an English class, the professor, in discussing a short story he’d assigned, commented that we never get to know ourselves completely. I disagree. And yet, there are always surprises.
Having an interest in our mind is most satisfying.
As inviting as the discovering is, not everyone is inclined to do so. If you do, keeping a private diary is useful. I’ve addressed that in a separate blog.
So let us welcome our regrets. Let us look at them as stimuli that enrich and sharpen purpose, helping us fulfill the most of our possibilities.

Is America Racist? A Guide

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There is a strong desire to absolve ourselves of that judgment. 

A strong tendency to want to spare ourselves. 

There is no other group that has suffered like African Americans have throughout the years. Except for American Indians who were decimated.

Emancipation came in 1863 but it would take another 100 years – 1964 – before Lyndon Johnson pushed through, against great resistance, the Civil Rights Act prohibiting racial discrimination. Not surprisingly, discrimination against blacks persisted in both overt and covert ways.

Is America racist?

We have been. And we still are in some ways.

What to do about it?

Put it on the table so we can examine such belief each and every day. 

Not to do so retards both our personal and national growth.

Not to do so diminishes us.

Each one of us has to keep looking squarely at who we are, day in and day out and ask, Do I think myself better than African Americans? Do I think they are inferior? Do I think they don’t try hard enough?
Do I think they are more violent? Do I think they are less intelligent?’

Am I racist?

If I share any of the above, even as a passing thought, then I have to work on it.

Because African Americans are neither inferior, nor lazy, nor more violent nor less intelligent.

But they have been marginalized for a long time.

Impoverished for a long time.

Undereducated for a long time.

All of which warps the essence of a person.

It is okay to say to ourselves, ‘I am racist… and I am committing to overcome it.’

It is not an unforgivable flaw to have racist thoughts. 

And we don’t have to tell anyone.

We don’t have to confess.

So long as we keep working on it.

But we all have to do it. 

Is America racist?

Yes, we are. 

We are because we have gone along with policies that segregated African Americans. Because we have not objected loudly enough to their having poor educational and work opportunities. Because we have colluded, consciously or unconsciously, actively or passively, to keeping them down.

And what about our guilt? 

If we have personally injured an African American acting from a racist belief – call it harm in the concrete – then we must apologize. And it will be up to them to forgive us or not. 

If we have injured African Americans by not favoring measures that would assist their development – call it harm in the abstract – then we can work to reduce our guilt on our own, by questioning ourselves daily about our attitudes toward them and aiming to resolve them. 

Forgiveness will be up to us and our consciences. 

Advancement for African Americans has been happening gradually, over the years, thanks to the commitment of many of our more enlightened fellow citizens. 

But opportunities need to grow faster. 

As they do, we will see African Americans rise in every field of human endeavor, showing that they are just as capable as any other group on earth. Their numbers in the higher ranks of science and academia and industry and technology and business and all professions will swell. And their numbers in jails and prisons will decrease.

And we will feel proud of our civic and emotional growth.  

Gradually, we will cease to be racist as a nation.

And we will be at peace,

And we will be one,

For we will have conquered ourselves. 

But we have to keep working on it. Day in and day out.

Is America racist? 

Yes, it is.

Am I racist?

Answer the above questions and make your judgment. 

You may not be.

You may be one of our more evolved and mature citizens.

Each person has to square with their truth.

And so long as each one of us does, each one of us will be ceasing to be racist every single day.

As for me,

I will not confess,

But I will keep doing the work every day,

Day in and day out,

And feel damn good about the progress I’m making.

Oscar Valdes.

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