Deep in our hearts we know that if we’re going to ever “live out the true meaning of our creed, that all men are created equal” it will be something that happens between us day to day – in the places we live, in the lives we lead, in the actions we take and the decisions we make – large and small. Yet still we reliably turn toward our television sets and social media when the worst happens, where we know our resentments will be stroked and our fury stoked. Imagine if in times of crisis, instead of separating, we gathered? Who might we be then?
In the wake of the gut-wrenching events of the 2016 election cycle, Stephen Colbert offered up this: “A nation is not its politics… a nation is as the relationships between its people.” If we don’t have those relationships right here, right now, that’s on us.
We cannot stay disconnected to each other until a time of deep community crisis forces up to confront our distance. A more divided people are vulnerable. As America grows closer to being a majority minority country, communities that thrive will be the ones that build institutions incorporating this diversity dynamically into the fabric of everyday community life – it should simply become how we roll. In times of turmoil, we turn toward each other – in the glorious diversity of race, religion and opinion we find in the human race. It’s our Local Color.
In the opening number of the Broadway musical “Hamilton”, Lin-Manuel Miranda belts out “and there’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait, just you wait…” American democracy bequeathed to us was as a draft version, and the founders left us the mechanisms for revisions. We have that power right here and now in this place we share. Forget Washington. If we don’t iterate, it’s on us.
We imagine a public space where we come to really know each other, where we look unflinchingly at what divides us as we revel in what unites us – sort of an old-fashioned civic barnraising of sorts. We imagine an idea-generating, deeply real (possibly even joyful) Hamilton-inspired Technicolor town hall. We’re deep believers this American community is up to the challenge. We think we can teach the world a thing or two.
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
Does identity politics help marginalized groups get some much-needed R-E-S-P-E-C-T – breaking through barriers to become who we really are? Or does it sometimes hide what’s most unique about us? Can we adore and endure each other? We’ll figure all this out in 90 minutes, no big deal.
In a biographical telling of Jackie Robinson who wore jersey #42 throughout his Major League career, the film 42 tells the story of the first black baseball player in the MLB.
The Nike ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick has alternatively inspired and infuriated Americans. Both sides see sacrifice for a greater cause and see themselves standing up for fundamental American values. Both sides embrace their own protest and condemn the other’s. Could we be more alike than we’d like to acknowledge? We’ll seek understanding across this national rift.
We talk a lot about difference of opinion between groups but less about variety of opinion that exists inside them. Does viewpoint diversity undermine the solidarity of marginalized groups? Should minorities who challenge conventional wisdom automatically be considered traitors? Or might an embrace of ideological difference inside racial minorities plant seeds to heal division?
Jackie Robinson would be 100 next week. On April 15th 1947, he stepped onto Ebbets Field as a Brooklyn Dodger, breaking the color barrier in a segregated sport. In celebration of the 100th year of his birth, we’ll talk about issues swirling in the sports world around race and we’ll consider the progress made through sports.
This year’s Local Color panelists are racially diverse at home. For Valentine’s Day, we’ll talk about interracial marriage and adoption at a time when tensions are rising across racial lines – and wrestle with whether we ought to be more melting pot or more salad bowl, retaining our cultural differences.