I have two young daughters, and they love P. D. Eastman’s book, “Are You My Mother?” In this book, a mother bird leaves her unhatched egg and hurries off to make sure she has something for her little one to eat once he makes his way out of the shell. Unfortunately, as soon as she’s gone, out pops her baby. He has been unintentionally abandoned. The baby bird immediately goes in search of his mother, having no idea what she looks like. This makes finding her quite a challenge. He approaches multiple other animals, all of whom tell him that they are not his mother.
One of the subtle messages in this children’s book is that identity matters. When identity is not properly formed and defined, the search for identity can lead down a variety of paths. This search is a lonely journey for the seeker. Without guidance, someone may take on a false identity— or worse, never form one. If an identity is never formed, the seeker continues reaching out to any friendly being, always metaphorically asking, “are you my mother?”
You’ve got online discourse
My social media platforms have become an active place for an eclectic community to converse with and learn from others. In this digital community, the wealthy interact with those in poverty. Americans communicate with Pakistanis and white CEO’s exchange ideas with BIPOC college students. It is fascinating to see the dialogue that occurs when physical proximity is not a barrier to relationship and conversation.
Recently, I analyzed the most interactive and energized conversations from my page. The two most “popular” topics are political homelessness and racial tension. These conversations reveal our two-party system in America has become so dichotomized that the majority of participants feel…abandoned.
There are traditional Republican voters who are quietly ashamed at the behavior of the sitting president and his administration’s posture and policies. If these individuals self-identify as conservative Christians, they may see a once seemingly impenetrable tower of evangelicalism crumbling before their very eyes. Their once concretized Republican identity is eroding. To them, the moral majority is losing—or has already lost—its moral authority.
Typical Democratic voters are likely left with a sense of deep disappointment. The results of our previous president’s policies did not achieve permanent positive gains on multiple racial and economic justice issues that they feel should have been radically and irreversibly transformed over those 8 years.
Identities are crumbling
On either end of the political spectrum, participants feel jaded. The structures that represent their core values are broken. What once felt clear and compelling now feels broken. The truth is emerging that both parties have fatal foundational flaws. The two-party system, or at least the two parties in power, no longer satisfy our political ideals. The brokenness is clearer each day.
In contrast, the conversations on race bear out that the majority of participants feel misunderstood. People come to this conversation as if it is their job to define terms such as “reverse racism” or “entitlement.” They go on to aggressively call out other racial groups for erroneous thinking, which too often throws gasoline on a raging dumpster fire of pre-existing confusion and pain.
Then there are the posts that combine politics and race. Whenever I see one of these threads emerge on my feed, I know I need to closely monitor my platform. These back-and-forth exchanges can get ugly fast. Far too often, someone will make an ignorant comment and then explosive sparring begins.
I am a multiracial, multiethnic, politically independent guy. In this world of black and white (and red and blue), the ability to dream and think in vibrant color is not only an asset. It is potentially our nation’s greatest need in this season of American history.
When we understand and embrace that every human being is equally valuable and that we are all innately interconnected by the nature of our humanity, we can stop the frantic search for identity and walk away from identity politics. To put it another way: no more looking for love in all the wrong places. Equality is written in America’s founding documents, but has never been realized in the entire history of our nation. To truly become great (for the first time), we must fix our eyes and our efforts squarely on the pursuit of liberty and justice for ALL.
Moving forward, we must commit to both lament for and hold accountable the individuals, families, communities, institutions and nations that remain blind to racial injustice. We must commit to proactively seek out, serve and elevate those whose voices have historically been blocked, muted, or omitted. We must commit to love all people.
Finally, we must commit to speak the truth to those in power and listen closely to the voices in the margins of human society who continue to speak truth to us. When we commit, we will change the world. Together.
About the Author
Dr. Christopher Brooks is the proud son of a Jamaican mother and an American father. Born and raised in South Minneapolis, Chris is a lifelong resident of the Twin Cities metro area. With a strong reputation as a results-oriented leader, Chris has enjoyed a diverse 25-year career serving as an executive, educator, and change agent. He held leadership roles in several nonprofit organizations and served as a professor at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. As a professor, he built 10 brand new courses in urban studies and community development. Chris and his wife have 4 children and are actively involved in the Twin Cities community.