If you are excited for the Olympics you might especially be looking forward to the relay races. In years past, the commentary focused on the teams’ ability to Pass the Baton. Our US team previously missed the goal because of a poor baton hand off.
I was not on a competitive relay team, but I did run track and I vividly recall the slap of the baton as we practiced our hand offs. As a team, we spent a bit of time learning how to pass the baton. There is an art to a smooth hand off, and that keeps the race going, allowing your team to obtain the lead spot. In my professional life, I have marveled at the difficulty I see among Advocates to symbolically pass the baton to a new generation of leaders.
In my personal life, I think I have been able to better understand and appreciate the dynamics that go into this transition. My father and I often talk about the continued Civils Rights struggle. He was active in many ways during the 60's, and I am moved by the knowledge that both he and my grandfathers were present at the church when Dr. King gave his last sermon in Memphis. This city being the place where I grew up and the place where Dr. King was slain are foundational to my call to be a peacemaker.
If you have not read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, then I encourage you to do so. Reading the entire book could take you some time. It’s a good read, but I must warn you, it is painful and difficult to take everything in at once. I read it in pieces. I encouraged my father to read it. After he finished, his first response was an apology to me as well as my generation for what he described as “falling asleep at the wheel.” From his perspective, many laws are reversing the great work of the Civil Rights Act and voting rights.
I have another view.
The civil rights movement, as is any movement, is a continuous journey. At the time of its inception, I believe that its leaders knew that something had to change. They did not know to what extent things had to change, or what it would take. However, they knew change had to begin. I believe change is a work in progress. Even today, we still can't comprehend what it would mean to be post-racial in the US, let alone across the globe.
When I think about the multitude of "first" experiences my mother and father have had, I feel tired for them. I often think: how can you look back and pass the baton, when you are still in the struggle or just trying to catch your breath?
Everywhere my parents go they are still the first. Not only were they the first class of students to desegregate their respective colleges, but they also are still breaking new barriers.
So, professionally, I have been able to attain a greater appreciation for why it is hard to pass the baton when you are still running in the race. I hope that my generation will learn to come up beside our leaders and demonstrate that we are with them, appreciative of them and supportive of their missions. Then, perhaps in time, we will learn to gently pass the baton.
Photo by noheadlights