The importance of respect and dignity during a crises


A community divided

Ron EdwardsFebruary 1, 2016, is another day that will live in infamy for our Minneapolis community, due to the disgraceful and disrespectful confrontational name-calling witnessed by both Black and White Minneapolis leaders at an event in South Minneapolis. The Black leader of the local branch of one of our most respected civil rights organizations referred to two Black leaders using a name suggesting they are offspring of a mother who is like a dog in active heat.

We need healing, not hurting. We need “quality of character” not nasty characters. We need respect, not displays of pettiness, rancor, and disrespect.

In presidential years, wanna-be leaders, nationally and locally, fight among themselves over who is “the greatest.” It is not them. It is the “people in community” who are the greatest. So attacking loved ones of those with whom one disagrees is a sure way to lose community support. Traveling the high road of respect and dignity helps create a formula for community conflict resolution and peace.

Too many block peace by blocking community conflict resolution, proudly holding self over community, saying they are summoned by a greater power that only they can identify, attacking traditional Black churches, claiming they alone speak truth and wisdom. Too many say, quite literally, that community elders should just go away and die, instead of calling for a “family meeting,” with all at the table to discuss common goals and how to meet them, especially in the too-often ignored areas of education, jobs and housing.

It is disrespecting for civil rights organizations to refer to Black ministers as worthless as poverty pimps, and to declare reconciliation is not the action and order of the day. As we pointed out in our 2015 year-end column, reconciliation is always the action and order of the day. The name calling uttered loudly on February 1, so mean, so full of venom and disrespect, reflects not “civil rights” for all but “my rights” for me. In my younger days of the 1960s and 1970s, such disrespect would have been unacceptable; such a leader would receive calls from both membership and broader community leaders to resign.

Why do such perpetrators and their supporters believe apologies will be enough while the rest us realize they are sorry only for being caught. Why express anger to someone by calling their 79-year-old mother, and minister, a dog in active heat? What deeper, underlying attitudes are being masked?

For other examples of disrespect, see our December 24, 2015 column about African American fire fighters and police officers at the BLM-NAACP occupations, and our November 26, 2014 column for examples of other Black on Black disrespect. These are not good patterns and practices.

Most “dissed” have family, friends, and admirers. Most religions and secular ideologies claim a version of the “Golden Rule,” advocating treating others the way one wants to be treated. Not doing so betrays one’s religion and/or secular ideology, and leads both sides to becoming what they hate. There is no “civil right” to bully those not agreed with. Such behavior is self-defeating.

We are a better people. We purposefully have reasonable great expectations. Leaders must focus on keeping our collective eye on the prize. Community leaders, teachers, scholars at local colleges and think tanks, elected officials, and agency administrators work best with those who respect rather than disrespect.

All moments demand leadership with civility and character. Will the legacy of the Minneapolis NAACP and Black Lives Matter/Minneapolis be one of success through respect for what matters to all or fail through showing disrespect, and focusing only on matters that matter to them?

Stay tuned.


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