That was the theme of last week’s W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s 2nd Annual America Healing Conference. The theme “Healing Democracy” comes on the heels of the Trayvon Martin case, on the heels of alleged racialized violence in Tulsa, on the heels of violence in the Middle East, and the Sudan (where battles are occurring over the boundaries separating Sudan from South Sudan), on the heels of a wounded democracy, where battles over budgets, entitlements, the size of government are playing out right before us all.
After giving a presentation to a group of elected officials, economic developers, and teachers, I was once asked whether I thought government, our American government, was broken. I think what the insightful individual was truly asking me is whether democracy is broken. My answer now, as it was then, no it is not, rather it is fractured in some areas. This is what the Kellogg’s conference sought to address, the fractures, especially the fractures and wounds surrounding race in America. It was evident that the advocates, intellectuals, and practitioners present were of diverse opinions on how to heal in the area that Attorney General Eric Holder said we were “a nation of cowards” in.
Healing requires at times removing scabs, requires digging in areas one would rather not, requires even admitting there is a problem to address. Not all agree that America requires healing because for them there is no problem. Yet, there are some areas and cleavages that must be addressed in order for America to move forward as a democracy. And as the 2010 Census illustrates, America is growing ever more diverse in color.
And this too was reflected at the conference, inasmuch that President and Co-Founder of CommonHealth Action Natalie S. Burke acknowledged was a beautiful sight, as well as a significant one, as we move toward healing through dialogue, deliberations, and learning from the other. Vice President of Program Strategy at W.K. Kellogg, Dr. Gail Christopher, summed it up this way: “We have so much to celebrate. What started as an idea, and one of my colleagues reminded me, it really started as a prayer, several years ago, is actually mushrooming into, dare I say, an actual movement for racial healing in this country. And that gives us all a great deal of heart and hope, and pause, because it is tremendous responsibility to shape and guide and see that movement flourish.”