This article originally appeared on Medium.com on August 9, 2016.
Twenty years ago, when I turned 40, I wanted to mark the passage of time with what I called, a ‘Decade Dare.’ The concept was simple; do something completely out of my comfort zone, incorporate my time, treasure, and talent (assuming I could figure out a sliver of some talent) as a fundraiser for a specific organization or cause. Lastly, it would be for something I had not yet requested my friends and family to consider in their generous giving.
Since I knew that this day would come — yes, I do look at calendars and can add — my Decade Dare for my 60th has been very much on my mind for a few years. The good news is that I have many passions and interests so choices have been plentiful. The bad news is that the landscape of need is vast and overly abundant.
Over the next 2 months, I will be sharing many aspects of this journey and all that it encompasses. At this moment, I want to cut to the chase and declare the focus of this Decade Dare and invite you to join me on this path. The easy part is the out of my comfort zone which will be walking 600 km for 5 weeks (approx. 12–15 miles a day) of the Camino de Santiago in Spain. That also covers the time factor. The talent factor is the use of my physical being (as I said, it is just a sliver of talent) and perhaps my sense of direction (helpful in case the yellow arrows disappear). The treasure factor is similar to past Decade Dares as I will cover all my expenses AND match dollar for dollar of any contributions. As always, for anyone wanting to join me in my effort, donations will be tax deductible*.
The area of focus has been a journey in and of itself and I will explain more in the months ahead. I am raising funds for organizations centered on a national truth and reconciliation** process in the United States. I have been engaged in sessions with a diverse group of people. The powerful experience we shared around the potential of truth and reconciliation has inspired me to join their process.
I have also been inspired by Bryan Stevenson’s work and my inter-actions with him. Bryan challenges us to be proximate, change the narrative, remain hopeful, and be uncomfortable. I am heeding his call. The topic of race in America has become increasingly more important to me as it has become more exposed as a dire issue in our country. I agree with the belief that for us to move forward, we need to acknowledge what is in our past.
As a very privileged white woman, I am well aware that I have much to learn, that my life is dramatically different from American women of color, and that I have been shielded from more than I can possibly imagine. The fact that I am only aware of the ‘dire issue’ recently speaks to my head-in-the-sand and the luxury I have been afforded. I am well aware that as open-minded as I convince myself that I am, that in truth I am not and the level of unconscious bias in my thinking needs to become far less. I am increasingly more aware of the oceans of misunderstanding and lack of knowledge I swim in every day.
I believe we need to change our national dialogue and a truth and reconciliation process is the way to move forward and heal.
There is much to be said, much to be done, much to be questioned, and much to be debated. I have no doubt that every person who reads this will have an opinion. I want to hear those perspectives. As always, I will open my mouth and say something I will be clueless about its meaning, lack of sensitivity, inference, call it what you will. I ask you to consider educating me rather than judging me. Perhaps your teachings and patience will benefit others as well. I think of it as moving the unconscious bias into the conscious and, hopefully, dissipating the bias. I hope we will share this journey.
“True reconciliation is never cheap, for it is based on forgiveness which is costly. Forgiveness in turn depends on repentance, which has to be based on an acknowledgement of what was done wrong, and therefore on disclosure of the truth. You cannot forgive what you do not know.”
–Bishop Desmond Tutu
*Checks are to be written to the Schwab Charitable Fund. Memo line: The Resiliency Fund. In addition to Equal Justice Initiative, I will be doing due diligence on other organizations in this area. A full account including funds, disbursements, mission statements, grant agreements, and objectives will be made available.
**A truth and reconciliation commission is a commission tasked with discovering and revealing past wrongdoing by a government (or, depending on the circumstances, non-state actors also), in the hope of resolving conflict left over from the past. Truth commissions are, under various names, occasionally set up by states emerging from periods of internal unrest, civil war, or dictatorship. In both their truth-seeking and reconciling functions, truth commissions have political implications: they “constantly make choices when they define such basic objectives as truth, reconciliation, justice, memory, reparation, and recognition, and decide how these objectives should be met and whose needs should be served.” According to one widely-cited definition: “A truth commission (1) is focused on the past, rather than ongoing, events; (2) investigates a pattern of events that took place over a period of time; (3) engages directly and broadly with the affected population, gathering information on their experiences; (4) is a temporary body, with the aim of concluding with a final report; and (5) is officially authorized or empowered by the state under review.”