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Race & Reconciliation Initiative

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Closing our work with determination

Recently I re-watched an old movie, "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." By way of spoiler alert, towards the movie's climactic scene, our fearless protagonist Indiana (Harrison Ford) desperately tries to obtain the fabled Holy Grail in order to thwart evil thieves and save his wounded father (Sean Connery).

Indy must pass three challenges before entering the room housing the last knight guarding the grail, and after thinking his way handily through the first two, appears to be at his wits’ end for the third.

Indy approaches what appears to be an impassable chasm: a steep drop downward off a rocky canyon as far as the eye can see, with no bridge, no ladder, no rope to help him access the other side. Temporarily stymied, our ever-resourceful archaeologist consults his tired map legend once again.

And then he makes a dramatic "leap of faith."

Because things like this only happen to our heroes in the movies, Indy takes what appears to be a surefire step towards death by walking out over the open chasm.

Ah! Lo and behold, there is a bridge underneath his feet. The camera pans to reveal that the bridge appeared to "blend in" with the canyon wall, making it nearly invisible. (In case you were curious, after crossing this unique, chameleon-like bridge, resourceful Indy had the presence of mind to throw sand on the bridge so he could re-trace his steps back.)

This scene comes to mind when contemplating the idea that as we hurtle towards reconciliation, we must make our determination with determination.

Determination is a fascinating homonym; it can describe “a decision made” as well as convey the idea of moving forward in a particular direction with confidence and fortitude.

In many respects, the reality of systemic racism is not new — it is, unfortunately, as American as apple pie.

But we now find ourselves at a sprawling chasm where we must face the looming question: to what degree can institutions change how they deal with the topic of racism?

With determination, we must essentially take these initial steps towards reconciliation on faith. We simply don’t have hard evidentiary proof of what will happen and how we might stand to benefit from various changes in policies or practices.

But change we must. Move forward we shall.

We must make the determination that we will stay open to the art of the possible. If we do that, if we consider that there is more than one perspective, and keep consistent with our efforts to stay in community and in conversations, then we can weather whatever growing pains that await us.

For ultimately, the object of our reconciliation project is not to revolutionize our institution within eight months; this is patently not feasible, and entertaining this expectation only sets us up for failure.

Rather, we aim to point our institution in new direction as we make our determination to pursue reconciliation with determination.

If anything, the true test will be to see in what direction the campus climate continues to head after Reconciliation Day. For, when it comes to fundamental, systemic change, such seeds must be nurtured over time.

And time always tells the truth.

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