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Unity Initiative is a fellowship of families and individuals who take action in freeing themselves of personal prejudice through their involvement in a diverse, yet unified community. By sharing the solutions we have found in our personal experiences, we set up an environment where others can benefit from what we have learned. By changing ourselves, we hope to make a positive impact on our communities and our society as a whole.
If you are new to this organization and you are feeling a little uneasy about being out of your comfort zone, we understand; we’ve been there. Please don’t let that deter you from joining our fellowship.
We assume that you are here to take part in solutions for overcoming problems of bigotry in your community. We are all products of a racist society and most of us must admit that we too carry some form of prejudice. Regardless if you recognize the need for your own transformation or you are solely here to support changes in our society, Unity Initiative needs you! Community involvement is vital to our success, so everyone interested in participating in this endeavor is encouraged to join. You will make a difference. All who enter our doors are welcome and are greatly appreciated; every one of every race, belief system, social status and background. We value each individual of every diversity.
The only requirement for membership is a desire to support a culture of harmony where mutual respect is nurtured. However, where there is diversity, there will surely be differences in cultural, political and religious ideology. We must therefore stay sensitive and respectful of each other’s beliefs. We generally steer clear of debate. At the same time, we should remain aware that many coming into this fellowship will voice sentiments and perceptions that expose distortions or stereotypical conditioning. Statements may be expressed that come off as misinformed, insensitive or even disrespectful. In these cases, we must be loving, patient and tolerant; attributes of maturity that can be developed through working the twelve steps.
Over and over again, we will need to practice these values in order to rise above taking these distortions personally. We instead remain understanding so that we can avoid negative reactions. Taking the high road in this manner will allow us to help each other grow past our own misconceptions and overcome personal prejudice.
To ensure the continuity of our organization, our society is following the example of other successful 12-step groups by adopting customs that will allow us to keep our focus on our primary objective of unity. UI must sustain a policy of non-affiliation with other organizations and institutions. We are not aligned with any political group, sect or denomination. We wish to stay free of all controversial issues and we neither advocate nor oppose the efforts of any other causes.
To avoid problems of money, property and prestige, we charge no dues or fees for membership, take in no funds from outside sources, and our members maintain a profile of personal anonymity. Unity Initiative expenses are covered solely through our own contributions. With these standards in place, we establish a foundation in which our united community can thrive.
We are living in an era of opportunity as no past generation has ever known. We are the beneficiaries of our ancestors who have endured innumerable trials and tribulations to put freedom, security and prosperity within the reach of an ever-expanding portion of the population. We have much to celebrate in the challenges that have been overcome and the level of abundance that has been achieved. An enormous amount of our material gains has been attained through the labored efforts of past generations as well as advances in government, science and education.
Growth has also been the result of the increased value of compassion swelling up from the communities of nations around the world who desire to see an increase in the spread of peace and unity. An overall sense of understanding is gradually evolving. Although progress is sometimes painfully slow, tyranny and oppression are becoming less tolerated, opening the door for expanding freedom and human rights. As technology makes our world smaller, we are seeing more respect gained for all nations as well as increased appreciation for varying cultures. Throughout history, we have seen turning points by various nations who have transformed their societies, radically changing their courses by freeing themselves of destructive philosophies and practices.
Of course, we still have a long way to go. Violence continues to persist as an option that is too quickly chosen as the answer for settling disputes. Human rights are still not universally practiced. Age old maladies such as bigotry and racism continue to resist eradication, impeding our growth resulting in continued corrosion for our civilization as a whole. While the factors producing the current climate of a cross-cultural experience are bringing a sense of openness to some, they are exposing the fears and prejudices of others that would otherwise stay dormant with the status quo.
Finding then implementing solutions to these problems will make way for our progress, while not addressing these issues will guarantee stagnation with the obstruction of our growth. There will never be a better time than now to take up this challenge. As our transformation continues, we must become willing to look honestly at ourselves and stay open to new perspectives so that we may overcome these social ills.
To accomplish this, we must ask ourselves why our world is still plagued by racism. In the United States, so many decades have passed since the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the adoption of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments and the many Civil Rights Acts, as well as innumerable struggles throughout the world for similar causes. Although we are surely making progress as a society, our world is still suffering from fear, resentment and bigotry between various racial and ethnic groups. Why have we barely matured beyond the passing of legislation in an attempt to force an end to overt racism?
While the observation may be accurate that the relationships between blacks and whites in the United States and other parts of the world have exposed some of the most extreme cases of these issues, bigotry has eroded the relationships of every racial group across the spectrum. Whether black, brown, red, white or yellow, we are all adversely affected. Today, factions around the world continue to fall prey to fear and violence. Regardless of the fact that this mayhem has only brought heartbreak and sorrow in these conflicts, diverse groups continue to become hopelessly entangled in bigotry fueled destruction.
For those of us who want to see a true and lasting healing take place in our lives, what can we do? Numerous organizations have been established for carrying out the essential needs of combating the effects of racism, but there seems to be sorely few organizations with the mission of actively facilitating in the uniting of diverse individual and community relationships; efforts that ultimately address the root causes. Unfortunately, the few organizations that have followed this path usually get less attention by our society than do divisive groups. Although it would be tempting to simply cast the blame on those who wish to maintain division through the status quo, we must take a look at ourselves and recognize that a number of us have been stymied by our own denial that significant problems still exist.
The gains made during the Civil Rights Movement of the fifties and sixties have lulled us into a false sense of hope. We declared victory then ended our efforts assuming the momentum of those successes would carry us forward through self-propulsion. The end of racism we thought, was inevitable. But the materialization of that dream is still nowhere in sight. The root of the problem is far from being resolved. Consequently, our complacency has given the ideologies of divisive groups the opportunity to spread, regaining their foothold. We have stopped moving forward in many critical areas of our progress towards equality and advances gained so far are slowly eroding. What can we do to reverse this backslide so that we can move forward again? Can we stop the cycle of continually handing off this problem from generation to generation? How can we transform our world so that our children and grandchildren will have a better future?
Overcoming bigotry is a lifelong, soul-searching endeavor that takes patience and courage. Part of the difficulty lies in the inherently sensitive nature of the controversy in the topic of racism which often exposes the deep-seated feelings of our passionate opinions. The complexity is multiplied by the 360 degrees of angles in which we perceive this problem. Coming to a consensus on solutions is improbable.
As of the writing of this book, a large portion of our population grew up during the era of legislated segregation. The negative feelings associated with that bitter past have mostly become dormant, but they are nonetheless quite prevalent throughout our society. Those reviewing or participating in open forums discussing racism or other issues concerning diverse groups will inevitably hear responses of frustration, disappointment, anger, animosity and disillusionment. For this reason, racism is a topic we simply try to avoid altogether. The observations, experiences and ideas expressed in this book will hopefully be well received, but in spite of our goal of unity, they will undoubtedly evoke strong dissent in some.
Facing such controversial issues takes courage. Those who dare to come together to discuss them do so with a measure of risk. Not only might others criticize one for “stirring the pot” but we inevitably take a deep look into ourselves exposing our own bias. We sometimes endure great discomfort when discovering how we contribute to or collude with racism. Maintaining our innocence is not guaranteed. On the contrary, this discovery is necessary, but exposing our prejudices in front of others can be very difficult. This is true despite the reality that practically no one can claim absolute freedom from bigotry regardless of color.
However, although racial-prejudice is a problem that every individual of every race must resolve within themselves, oppression in the United States has historically been overwhelmingly carried out by Caucasians upon people of color. Spotlighting the historical events that reflect this and examining current institutional racism may be uncomfortable for many nonwhites as well as whites.
These critical reviews are not meant as attacks, but as necessary measures for acknowledging the facts of our history. The society we inherited from generations of unresolved racism is still dysfunctional as the result of our inability to find answers to our social problems. Just as a therapist must guide individuals to dig deep into their past to help them discover personal issues before finding a resolution, we must dig into our own country’s history in order to understand and resolve our nation’s difficulties. If we are going to work together, we must prepare ourselves for this inevitable discomfort. This is a necessary part of the healing process.
Equal to the importance of not demonizing whites, is to not erroneously portray people of color as helpless. Although minorities continue to be victimized by institutional racism, exposing such problems should not be misconstrued as weakness. On the contrary, the disciplined courage exercised in the effective measures of minority communities continue to shape and strengthen our society as a whole.
People of all races will be needed for joining in the participation of contributions towards unity in order to continue our growth. Hopefully, as you read these pages, you will keep an open mind as well as an understanding heart and courageously face the uncomfortable emotions that may surface. Please do not allow that discomfort to deter you. Know that you are not alone. Your courage will pay handsomely. In the end, we hope you will be moved to participate in following the suggested action laid out for all individuals to reduce personal bias and to help build a united community.
Our world is filled with such wonderful diversity. Our combined contributions in musical, visual, culinary and performing arts as well as those in math and science, philosophy and spirituality make up the rich tapestry of our existence. Although this diversity is widely appreciated as a beautiful part of nature that adds spice and texture to our lives, we only need to look back at century upon century of overall racial and ethnic strife, marked by exploitation, violence and oppression to see that we are a long way from this becoming a universal view. Can we unite a world where division sometimes seems to stretch like an unbridgeable chasm? What would a united world look like? What would it be like to travel to any country and experience brotherly love instead of tension, fear and hostility? A world where you can go to any community in your own country, state or city and experience this same oneness?
To some, efforts towards widespread unity probably sound like a fool-hearted undertaking only to be attempted by individuals with Pollyanna-like optimism; a hopelessly impossible endeavor. But then when you witness year after year the miraculous transformation of people’s lives when fully embracing principles such as those practiced in the Civil Rights Movement and in 12-step programs*, the vision of our whole world benefiting seems quite plausible. And unless we are resigned to having all future generations continue to have their lives eroded by the same problems of our past, we must make an effort by taking further action.
There will be still others who will feel anxiety simply at the thought of such an undertaking, viewing this as an overwhelming and unthinkable burden. Thankfully, experience has revealed that such efforts are actually very exhilarating, fulfilling and joyful. It is not a burden to be endured, but a pleasure that makes life worth living. Change is certainly neither going to be simple nor will it happen overnight. The perceptions underlying our problems have evolved over several millennia so it will take time to heal. But if the successes of other organizations are of any indication, a difference can be made as long as we have the willingness and maintain our persistence in our efforts.
Keeping our scope in perspective for the individual, we need to look no further than changing our own lives. We will make a difference simply by participating in the unifying action of our local communities. Personal happiness and freedom from bigotry will come through the action we take to embrace the principles discussed later in this book. Uniting together will require widespread joy and happiness as well as an abundance of compassion. With these elements in place, reducing bigotry for many will simply be a natural byproduct.
* The first 12-step program was introduced by Alcoholics Anonymous® June tenth, 1935. Since its foundation, many 12-step programs have been established to resolve various problems and promote personal healing and growth. Millions of lives have been significantly enhanced in practicing the common principles these groups all share.
Conversely, brushing off widespread unity as “impossible” without trying may seem negative and cowardly to some; irresponsibly sticking our heads in the sand. But we can’t expect much more from ourselves nor from others without clear direction on how such an undertaking can be achieved. That is precisely the purpose of this book; to examine these problems through the lens of common values and to propose a path to community healing.
This book is a call to action; an initiative to unite.
We will take advantage of combined methods and philosophies that have been successfully practiced by others in past generations. Along the way, we will see how we can find a deep and sustained peace and happiness in our own personal lives by practicing the principles that are laid out in later chapters.
In this text, we will expose and discuss some of the problems of bigotry and racism in today’s society. Because of the fractured relationship that has evolved from the roots of slavery to the divided communities of today, we will primarily be focusing on problems in the United States between blacks and whites. But the underlying issues that will be exposed apply to all diverse relations. Next, we will examine ourselves as individuals and search for our own prejudices. We will then lay out the solution for cleansing ourselves of the underlying causes of our bias. And finally we will discuss ideas on how we can bring this healing to our communities.
Unity Initiative seeks to foster unity amongst diverse communities by providing an environment where healthy relations can grow. We want to bring people of all races, ethnicities and other diversities together as a fellowship to grow individually and as a society while freely pursuing individual cultural identities. This is what Dr. Martin Luther King described when he envisioned the “Beloved Community” where the brotherhood of man binds all people regardless of race or class.
While historical legislation towards desegregation has removed legal barriers for integration, these efforts have addressed neither the social structures nor psychological roadblocks that keep our communities separated. Only a deliberate effort towards these ends will allow us to achieve true integration and only then will we setup an environment where prejudices can be removed, animosity of our past healed and sharing of opportunity balanced.
Dr. King also repeatedly emphasized the need for Direct Action. For this, we have adopted the principles of 12-step programs for our personal healing and growth. We couple this with the philosophies emphasized by King and Gandhi, plus meetings, anti-racism education and group discussions as well as dialogs with like-minded individuals from diverse races and cultures.
UI has no other purpose. This is a nonprofit organization with no political, financial, religious or any other ambition. Furthermore, although UI wishes to express hopes for success in the endeavors of other institutions pursuing similar goals, we have no direct affiliation with any other organization. We are simply a fellowship* with the common desire to live with compassion towards all people. If you share this aspiration, we hope you will join us.
If you are plagued with bigotry and want to replace bitterness and prejudice with love and compassion, we welcome you. Regardless of the level of animosity you may have, we can help if you are ready. If on the other hand, you carry such bias yet desire neither to join in our efforts nor change your perceptions, you are no less our brother or sister. We respect your right to choose and wish you well. If at some point you wish to experience life with less fear and judgment of others, our doors will always be open to show you the peace that can be found.
* UI is a fledgling program whose fellowship is just beginning. This book is meant to be the basis for the organization’s foundation. By the time this book becomes public a fellowship will have been started.