Conciliation is the process of winning over from a state of hostility. One must first recognize that there is hostility, prostate separation, or despondent and dichotomous sides of an issue before one can earnestly engage in the process of addressing those differences. Most people want reconciliation rather than conciliation because it is theoretically easier to re-do something rather than doing it in the first place. Theoretical remedies are very lofty and intellectually simulative. In theory, we can engage our minds in a sanitized and sterile solution to very complex and problematic social issues like institutionalized racism, class and gender bias and systems of oppression. It is easy to just endlessly theorize rather than actually engage in a process whereby one must be present in mind body and spirit and commit time, energy and physical discomfort to the process of conciliation.
In our “instant society” of creature comforts, drive thru restaurant pick-ups, abundant fast-food choices and immediate gratification we have lost our appetite for processes that take time, intentionality of purpose and attentiveness. We treat diversity of perspectives and people as a side dish and more often than not very little actual time, resources or energy are dedicated to their inquiry and application within institutions, organizations, businesses or public community initiatives nation-wide. Conciliation is a process of deeply addressing our divisions with active and intentional purpose to application rather than theory. It requires that we roll up our sleeves and begin to “up root” longstanding systems of oppression that have engaged in an historic legacy of “divide and conquer” since the inception of this nation. It is hard work and can be painful too. But it must be done if we are to build our future together as a nation. You cannot continue to say things like “I don’t see color” or remain silent while crime and punishment is continually racial-ized and criminalized by elected officials and public policy and expect to actually build bridges towards conciliation. We must demand a wake-up call and come to the table of dialogue that requires you hear some hard truths as well as speak openly and honestly about the fact that we as a nation (ALL people) have never been together and in order to come together we must first conciliate our past, our histories, and differences, and acknowledge that we have a lot of work to DO—Work that must be done.
For many people, the “American” holiday of Thanksgiving offers so many conflicted mixed messages and meanings. We often forget what that holiday may mean to First Nations people. When considering the intentional genocide that was attempted by US government policy and practice, ultimately calling November Native American History Month cannot begin to address the history or legacy of that past. How many have anxiety about being members of families that do not acknowledge or respect their identities as gay/lesbian or trans individuals or their civil rights to equal protection under the law? So they are forced to suppress and deny who they are and swallow all the outright discriminatory language across the dinner table about all types of people “not like us.” The “us” being heteronomative, Christian, middle-class leaning or wanna-be as close to normal and white or whiteness as possible. The masks of oblivion and denial must come down for the process of Conciliation to begin. The masks of political correctness and fear of addressing the truth of a nation’s historic legacy that must be confronted, interrogated and conciled with our present state of dysfunction and dis-Ease. It is HARD work but if we want the garden to grow we have to get in the dirt, haul the rocks and uproot the weeds. Together. Talk to me.
Artistic Director and Founder of
The Conciliation Project & Professor
At Virginia Commonwealth University