“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite,” Nelson Mandela.
Early in my career, I had a conversation with a local African American leader about the deep division between blacks and whites in this region. I made what he perceived as a dismissive statement about blacks and whites “getting over themselves and figuring out how to work together.” He felt as though I was uninformed and insensitive to the history of race relations in St. Louis. He was correct. I was a 20-something idealist and though I still hold many of the same beliefs about the necessity of working together, years later I understand more of the challenges to achieving this end goal.
Having open and honest discussions about race, opportunity and justice in diverse settings is healthy and important. Working together to craft an agenda that prioritizes our region’s people, our human capital, gives concrete actions and meaning to those discussions. In order for us to change the trajectory of a generation and our region, we have to create safe places for conversations that challenge the heart and mind, and take concrete steps to give all people access to opportunities to succeed. This is what love looks like.