I was born in Detroit the third of eleven children in an Irish Catholic family to a father who worked in the auto industry and to a mom who was a public school teacher, and both of whom graduated from the University of Detroit.
Not long before the riots in 1967, we moved to Southfield, a community across 8 Mile Road, which symbolized the divide between white and black, rich and poor. Many whites abandoned our beloved Detroit seeking better schools and a safer way of life. I remember riding down into Detroit with my father in the immediate aftermath of the riots and seeing tanks on Woodward Avenue.
Race relations in our family and in America have always been a journey that was confused, sometimes troubled and ongoing. Do I have biases and prejudices that I have to come to terms with and overcome? Yes, and we all do if we look in the mirror and are honest with ourselves. Whether it be biases based in race, sex, faith, income or whatever.
The path to a better way and a more compassionate American community is to start by being accountable to ourselves for our own thoughts and actions. And then being accountable and responsible for our own circles and communities, most importantly.
That is where lasting change really starts and happens.
In all this discussion lately on race and law enforcement, many folks seem to be talking past each other and pointing fingers to communities across the street. One side says it is the problem over there with white officers using excess force in a racial way and victimizing people of color.
The other side believes the problem is over there, saying crime is overly concentrated in urban areas, especially where minorities live and that rioting protesters have exacerbated the problem. Both sides have a point, but pointing at each other isn't helping resolve the issues.
I would suggest the best way to turn the heat down on this conversation, bring consensus and solve these issues is to look first at ourselves and our communities and find our own culpability. Law enforcement officials and white leaders need to acknowledge that there is a problem with how minorities are approached and with selective crime fighting. And that we whites arrive with biases that we need to address.
And minority leaders and communities need to better address destructive activities in their own neighborhoods where crime is way too rampant and minorities suffer at the hands of many minorities themselves. And that they have their own set of biases that must be looked at, as well.
And it is only then, when each side holds itself accountable and admits the problems among their own communities and begins to address them in our own circles, that we can come together to then build a better country. It never solves a problem to point fingers at one another and say, "If only you would change then everything would be better."
Just like in our relationships and marriages we each have learned that blaming someone else or saying if only you would be better doesn't ever solve the problem. It actually causes the other side to shut down or worse to fight back even harder.
When we communicate to another our own faults and take accountability, then we can have a more open and compassionate conversation. And it is in that moment when difficulties in our relationships can be resolved peacefully and build something stronger going forward.
I wish I didn't have my own prejudices and biases, but I do. And I know the only way I can overcome them is to take the time to look at myself and grow into the person I want to be. And I wish there wasn't racism in America or excessive law enforcement, but there is. And each side needs to look in the mirror, address it and walk across the road.
My hope is if this tough Irish kid from Motown can make the journey back across 8 Mile and be more compassionate, then America can make that journey as we head into a better future.
There you have it.