“Sidney Poitier is bringing his friends to dinner” — Thoughts on Uncommon Common Ground

This response to the new book Uncommon Common Ground: Race and America’s Future is written by E. Ethelbert Miller, a literary activist and board chair of the Institute for Policy Studies.

Since the election of President Obama, America has been walking around like Katharine Hepburn the first time she meets Sidney Poitier in the movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Is there such a thing as intellectual speechlessness?

In the 21st century the challenge is how best to create a new American narrative. Only when this is done will we be able to discuss racial equity. The new society requires a new vocabulary and language.  Many of us are still groping in the dark.

So much begins with Obama but ends with ourselves.  In their book, Uncommon Common Ground, Angela Glover Blackwell, Stewart Kwoh, and Manuel Pastor include their personal narratives. Their stories add a nice glitter to the opening chapter of this book. To some extent the three personal profiles overshadow the charts and graphs by reminding us that people make history.

Race is not going into hibernation for four or eight years because of what Obama does.  The new narrative of the 21st century is that America is a multicultural nation. Sidney Poitier is bringing his friends to dinner. Blackwell, Kwoh, and Pastor remind us that there is a difference between racial equality and racial equity. They see the hope for change in the emergence of a new leadership with skills that embrace the technology that is eliminating old structures at a rapid pace.

But how do we move beyond the old narrative?  Uncommon Common Ground successfully “maps” the old terrain.  There is mention here of Roosevelt’s New  Deal, but one wonders if reference should have been made to his second bill of rights. This book proclaims that “there has never been a better opportunity to make good on America’s promise.”  With equity, people will begin to reinvent America. One wonders if the new narrative will result in a more perfect union.

The challenge is not simply finding common ground as we move forward but also defining the word community. Are we using it the way King did?  Do we still believe we should try to build the beloved community?  According to Blackwell, Kwoh, and Pastor the leaders for racial equity “have and will come in different shapes and sizes, hailing from the religious, labor, business and political spheres.”

Uncommon Common Ground should be placed in the hands of all future storytellers. Let them speak truth to the people.

Photo via Tom Terrell

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.