Prejudice Across America

by James Waller
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In Prejudice Across America by James Waller, what is the path to racial reconciliation?

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James Waller includes a good number of comments on how to arrive at the path to racial reconciliation in the United States. Some common steps on the path to reconciliation include freedom to express pent up anger and bitterness over victimization; taking action to initiate changes; and diverting anger to the higher calling of reconciliation, unity and equality. More steps on the path to reconciliation include altering the political fabric undergirding racism; living according to understanding and empathy while rejecting fear; being vigilant, being part of the dream, listening with commitment; and taking action: "'[action] may be through a smile, a conversation, or a gift to someone who's been wronged in the past'" (Michael Sorrell, Lawyer, Advisory Board on Race Initiative, as quoted by Waller).

A common thread is the idea that the anger and resentment over injustice, inequality, distrust, and life and property loss needs to be expressed as part of the conversation leading to reconciliation. One man interviewed by Waller's group expressed the pent up rage that inhibits him from believing in racial reconciliation: "Don't reconcile with me! Just compensate me for all that you have taken! Just give me what you owe me!"

Another common thread is the idea that action is an integral part of reconciliation. As Reverend Sharp expressed it to Waller's group, whites may talk about reconciliation but "do not take any steps to implement these changes. ... whites are the only ones with power." Martin Luther King, Jr.'s experiences during the Civil Rights movement provoked his own anger and bitterness but, instead of basing his actions on those emotions, he sought a way to "subvert [his anger and bitterness] to a higher calling" (Waller), then led the multitude in a march for freedom. That freedom march began the path to racial reconciliation.

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