Small Chips and Broad Shoulders

Community Foundation Higher Ground 0 Comments

One reason why we may have so many conflicts in our city and nation on almost any subject is because we are talking more and listening less!

Too many of us carry a chip on our shoulders all of the time. We dare anyone to knock it off. Sometimes we are bluffing, hoping nobody will take us up on our dare — but nevertheless, it’s out there — and it’s too late to retrieve it.

“Don’t mess with me. If you do, you’ll be really sorry when our argument is over. And don’t mess with my friends. Look at them. They have chips on their shoulders as well.”

In last month’s blog, we began our discussion about race relations in our city and world. The timelessness of the subject is awesome, to say the least. We used Gary Pomerantz’s 1996 book, “Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn” as a frame of reference. We employed Peachtree as the metaphor for the white family and Auburn Avenue for the black.

There was no attempt to gloss over the serious reactions of black citizens, in light of the recent brutal murders of two young black teenagers. However, many white citizens were horrified by the unjust brutality as well.

In both black and white groups, friends have been murdered for no reason. Family members, classmates and neighbors have been cut down without remorse. Yet, there are people of conscious everywhere on Peachtree and Auburn Avenue.

We really don’t know each other. We face a real disconnect about their positive partnerships with us on Auburn Avenue. A few national “Peachtree” allies come to mind: Eleanor Roosevelt, John and Robert Kennedy, L.B. Johnson and Viola Luizzo, to name a few.

We are beyond the civil rights movement, but not the racial struggle for equality for all. We now enter the human rights and social rights movements.

It seems to me that the Peachtree crowd is responding to the Auburn Avenue crowd with excessive force, growing out of fear. Auburn Avenue continues to react to Peachtree initiatives with suspicion, anxiety and anger. We can’t get anywhere doing this.

Our goal is to develop relationships of trust, candor, respect and friendship. We’ve got to break down into small, inclusive groups and develop these relationships mentioned above so we can someday eliminate these evil barriers.

In my next blog, I’ll relate a true story of how people carrying little chips can become partners having broad, burden-bearing shoulders.

Rev. Joseph L. Roberts, Jr.