Dr. Gail Christopher Addresses Helsinki Commission
Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission)BRIEFING ON TRUTH, RECONCILIATION, & HEALING – Toward a Unified Future (PDF Version) Thursday, July 18, 2019 Written Testimony by Gail C. Christopher Chairman Hastings, Chairman Wicker, Commission members and our audience, thank you for holding this important briefing. I am honored to testify on methodologies that can unify and heal societies across the globe that have been divided by war, genocide and other traumas reflecting a belief in a hierarchy of human value. My name is Gail C. Christopher. I am the founder of the Ntianu Center for Healing and Nature, the Chairperson of the Trust for America’s Health, and the architect and implementor of more than $1 billion in efforts spanning four decades to facilitate racial healing and jettison racism from American society. Research reveals that the inequities caused by racism cost our nation almost $2 trillion annually in lost purchasing power, reduced job opportunities, and diminished productivity. Research also documents the extent that the conscious and unconscious belief in a racial hierarchy fuels the reluctance of political leaders and policy-makers to acknowledge the inequities and devote adequate resources to addressing them. Our democracy, like others around the world, is based upon full human engagement and action on shared interests of the population. In order to move forward, this nation must heal the wounds of our past and learn to work together with civility, and indeed, with love. We must build the individual and collective capacity to “see ourselves in the face of the other.” Our country has a history of enslaving people, committing genocide among Indigenous people, and embracing centuries of institutionalized racism. Yet, unlike other countries that have endured war, sectarian or racial strife, the United States has never undertaken a comprehensive Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) effort to heal divisions and bring equal opportunities to all communities. Thus, America experiences a significant wealth gap between white families and families of color, the persistence of government-incentivized residential segregation, unequal access to quality health care and affordable housing, achievement gaps in education, and discrimination in hiring practices. Throughout the world, extreme nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of ethnic and religious bias are often sustained by an antiquated notion that the human family can be divided and ranked based on physical characteristics and ascribed traits. These ill-conceived beliefs ossify, becoming hardened barriers among populations. This belief is alive today, as is the racism it has perpetuated and ingrained in America and other nations. The planet has more refugees today than at any time on record, and the impacts of human conflict related to weakening multi-lateral institutions and rapid climate change will only increase the number. Across the globe, societies struggling with growing inequality and demographic changes are being offered scapegoats instead of solutions. It has proven far too easy for citizens to turn against families seeking a safer home, because anti-immigrant demagoguery taps into a well of beliefs that cast racialized Others and people in poverty as inferior and criminal. These are false beliefs. The truth is that, managed well, immigration makes societies stronger — and we never know when any of us will need welcome from a stranger. When we uproot the false belief in a hierarchy of human value, we will be on firmer ground to face the challenges ahead. Together with other healing thought leaders, we have plotted a new course, one that can transform our nation as well as serve as a blueprint for other nations facing legacies of racism and discrimination. The Rx Racial Healing National Mobilization Campaign is a movement that aims to generate a critical mass of people committed to working together and healing the wounds of the past as we seek to end racism and the inequities it has created. Remember architect and systems thinker Buckminster Fuller once said: “You never change things by fighting the existing model. You must create a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” By redefining racism as the embedded and entrenched belief system it is, Rx Racial Healing provides a needed on-ramp for launching a new model of relatedness that is grounded in the knowledge of our interconnected and equal worth as human beings. With this foundational idea in place, we can create new ways of living, policing, and governing, as well as ways of distributing resources more equitably because we see our collective common interests. This campaign is empowering organizations reaching millions of people in every sector of nearly every community in our country to transform our society by going beyond just treating the symptoms of racism. Using a Rx Racial Healing methodology to create empathetic and compassionate support, our objective is to facilitate local action coalitions to jettison racial hierarchy and implement long-term policies and practices that address the impact of racial equity on health, education, housing and economic opportunity. The Rx Racial Healing vision identifies five imperatives for transforming communities:
- Leaders in the philanthropic, public and private sectors should leverage media and technology to disseminate the new narrative about human origins and connectedness, informed by 21st century genomic science, to repudiate the false 17th century belief in separate and unequal human races. This public historical correction should include authentic narratives and experiences of diverse people who will provide previously untold historical and contemporary perspectives, fuel new understanding, and enhance capacity for self-compassion and empathy.
- We are already training a critical mass of facilitators in all disciplines, geographic areas, and organizations. They will provide Rx Racial Healing experiences for diverse groups to enhance skills and capacities for empathy, self-compassion, resilience and perspective-taking.
- Congress and states should aim to overcome institutionalized racial separation patterns by implementing new approaches to land use, zoning, housing and transportation policies, mortgage finance and resource development.
- Congress should review its public policies and administrative practices to ensure that they are honoring the humanity of all; and particularly redress past and current inequities in civil and criminal justice systems.
- Economic policymakers at every level of government should implement investment strategies that result in a more equitable economy that closes racial and ethnic income and wealth divides.
Rx Racial Healing Begins with A Change in Consciousness By consciousness, I mean our beliefs and our states of awareness, both conscious and unconscious; particularly awareness and appreciation about the human family, our origin, and our sense of belonging and inter-relatedness. The idea of an interconnected human family is thwarted by the persistent belief in a hierarchical taxonomy of humanity; and the systemic vestiges of that antiquated belief that still mold our societal infrastructure and systems of democracy. Consciousness is not just thoughts. Consciousness encompasses emotions and feelings, as well as perceptions and attitudes that shape our beliefs and behaviors. The Rx Racial Healing campaign is based on interrelated strategies: building a national organizational network and activating local action to promote racial healing and racial equity. At the national level, national partner organizations are using their leadership positions to engage others in their sectors to become champions for racial healing and equity. Organizations throughout the education, health, housing, economic development, philanthropic, faith, and non-profit communities make up a second sphere of collaborating entities. The goal is to help a critical mass of people work together to eradicate the false ideology of a hierarchy of human value and its harmful consequences. This is the change we are creating. We want to reach a critical mass, the minimal number of people needed to sustain a consciousness shift in our society away from permitted hatred, indifference, and loveless-ness, toward unity and systemic human compassion for all. As such, the goal is education or re-education. Rx Racial Healing enables people to conceptualize and experience a new model for relating as an extended human family, one that is capable of perspective-taking and seeing ourselves in the face of the perceived “other,” feeling empathy, and demonstrating compassion with one another. This outcome is achieved by engaging people in communities and organizations throughout the nation. Rx Racial Healing is a conceptual framework for action in communities and organizations which includes a specific racial healing circle methodology, which guides people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives through a story-telling process that leads them to recognize and embrace each other’s humanity. It is past time for calling out and eradicating the 17th century, obsolete construct and belief in a hierarchy of human worth and value. It is now time to replace that old mental model with an accurate awareness and understanding of our common human ancestry and our equal inter- connected humanity. This is the missing link needed for generating and sustaining an equitable social infrastructure in America and for realizing our aspirational vision for the promise of democracy. When implemented on a large and comprehensive scale throughout the nation, Rx Racial Healing will help move us beyond needless divides toward the wholeness upon which a viable democracy depends. Why is this change so badly needed? Our inability as individuals and as a society to value all human beings equally, or as Albert Einstein once said to “see ourselves in the face of the other,” is making us sick, literally. Even more broadly speaking, the incapacity to value all human beings equally keeps us from experiencing optimal well-being and happiness. Our hearts and brains are designed to resonate with harmonious relationships. The opposite – fear and anxiety, separation, alienation and hate
- induces stress and distress. Distress causes a cascade of illness related changes within our very cells in our physical bodies and within our body politic.
Racism Flows Like a River Whether describing the Nile, Amazon or Yangtze River, historians know that large rivers became the centers around which civilizations and nation states have flourished. This is true for the Mississippi river; named by the indigenous dwellers of the Algonquin native tribes as the Father of Waters, the Mississippi River is one of the world’s longest rivers. It touches 32 states in America. It is not an exaggeration to say that it is the river that became the center around which the United States flourished. Still today in the 21st-century the Mississippi river and its many tributaries drive up to 75% of the US economy. This mighty river provides a good metaphor for the power of a single phenomenon to shape our life and lives – the belief in a hierarchy of humanity value that flows through the American psyche and society like the Father of Waters, the Mississippi. It drove the slavery economy and became the center around which 18th, 19th, 20th, and even today’s 21st century America flourishes. Every river has a delta, a landform created from the earth and rocks along the banks that it touched while moving rapidly to the ocean beckoning its waters. The river carries this sediment and debris to an end place where movement slows to stagnation in the delta. The human body has become the delta for the metaphorical river of racism. Sediment and debris from exposures have become socially embodied. Landforms – islands of separation, including residential segregation characterized by political and economic disinvestment — create adverse and toxic experiences for some, and fear of perceived “others”. These deltas help generate chronic stress and traumatic body responses which cause excess vulnerability to disease, and premature death. But unlike rivers, whose existence and flow are vital for sustaining geographic and human life, racism is manmade. This antiquated belief system and way of seeing/being can be undone. Racism flows like a river, but it is not a river. Racism can and must be eliminated and its harmful consequences healed. When implemented on a large and comprehensive scale throughout the nation, Rx Racial Healing will help move us beyond needless divides toward the wholeness upon which a viable democracy depends.