While listening to a fascinating interview of author and biographer Richard Norton Smith describe how he discovered what really “made some famous persons tick”, it occurred to me that the act of writing a biography could go a long way to understanding someone else’s essence.
Only when we know all the intimate details of the ancestry of someone else do we really appreciate how they evolved. Maybe that’s why I so enjoy watching the “Finding our Roots” show hosted by Dr. Henry Louis Gates. Knowing about someone’s upbringing, neighborhood, school, friends and life/work/social experiences (including the good, bad and ugly) will help us more fully understand why they think and act the way they do. Only then might we better appreciate them. To me, that’s what “critical race theory” is and I have no problem with that. Maybe to make it more palatable to some people we could call it any of the following:
Critical truth theory….or just drop the word “critical” if that’s what upsets some people. Who could be against the simple telling of the TRUTH. Document what happened, when it happened, how it happened and why it happened. Just the facts. No judgements.
Glaring case in point is the Tulsa “Riot” which now is more accurately described as the Tulsa “massacre”. And why is it that I only heard about and appreciated the “Trail of Tears” atrocity concerning Native Americans after I took a tour of Georgia as an adult. Guess I was busy watching cowboys and westerns and The Lone Ranger as a kid in the 1960’s.
Years ago schools had kids write to “pen pals”. Maybe what we need today for everyone is “life exchange pals” for everybody. Just knowing and understanding about eachother would go a long way to “peace on earth” from the local level upward. Now there are going to be some whose biases and stereotyping might only get reinforced when the curtain is pulled back concerning the lives of others. For the hard-core haters and ignoramuses they may need additional coaching to better understand and appreciate others.
I emphasize again, this does not mean you have to agree with everyone else but it will go a long way to “agree to disagree but not be disagreeable”. And let’s be clear about the following: If the culture you are discovering advocates things like honor killings, female genital mutilation and racial supremacy….you are not expected to say “that’s ok and I appreciate your perspective”. Hell no.
In sum, maybe we all should be required to write biographies about each other and conduct active listening interviews with each other in our workplaces, schools, neighborhoods and nations.