Wes Moore on how to forge a path for true, equitable justice
The best-selling author addresses issues of race, justice and reconciliation in Thursday night’s Vail Symposium event
Racism is hardly a black and white issue. During the racial reckoning of the past year in the United States, many conversations have sought to gauge the extent that racism and inequities exist in many of the country’s systems.
On Thursday night, Wes Moore, the CEO of the anti-poverty nonprofit Robin Hood and a bestselling author, joined Jo Ann Allen of Colorado Public Radio at a virtual Vail Symposium event to discuss just how endemic racism is. Allen and Moore discussed the ways in which racism can and should be addressed in America going forward.
In the last year, the protests following the death of George Floyd in police custody not only resulted in calls for police reform, but also held demands for swift and widespread equality. This spanned calls for true, equitable justice in all areas from education and housing to health care and poverty.
All of which came from the understanding that racism is not just an act, it is a system, Moore said.
Truth and reconciliation
In moving forward and addressing these systemic inequities, Moore believes in truth and reconciliation processes similar to other countries such as post-apartheid South Africa, Rwanda, Northern Ireland and about a dozen more.
“We need to give it a chance,” Moore said. “It’s important for the United States, it’s important for our individual states, it’s important for our organizations to be able to wrestle with its history and understand that with that, that gives us a path to understand, how then do we move forward collectively.”
This process of understanding, addressing and acknowledging the injustices of the past, Moore said, is the mature and humane way to move forward and change our future.
“It’s important for people to understand the weight and the burden that people of color in this country continue to have to feel and how functionally unfair that is. Our country, our jurisdictions, our homes should have the strength and the fortitude and the maturity to be able to wrestle with its past,” he said.
And if we don’t address our past? Moore and Allen agreed it would compound and create larger, more complex issues for future generations of all races.
A holistic way forward
A large part of the evening’s conversation centered on what people can do to acknowledge and address all of the inequities in our system.
For Moore, true change begins with coming together in a mutual understanding of the challenges ahead.
“We need to have an honest, cross-sectional understanding of what the challenge is. But then, it needs to be compounded with an action plan. Then we have to think about what we can all do in our work, in our homes, in our schools, in the things that we advocate for — to be able to address those dynamics in the way that they continue to show themselves,” Moore said. “That’s one of the core, fundamental things that we can do in our society to make sure that we are going to get it right.”
This deeper understanding begins with an acknowledgment of the privileges and hierarchies in society.
“We have to be able to spend our time both educating ourselves on that but then also being able to support some of the frameworks that exist that are actually helping to address it,” he said. This includes support organizations and lawmakers fighting for change and advocating education of individuals and groups.
“All those things are important for us to do, but it’s important for us to do it collectively,” he said. “We cannot be the 4-year old that’s scared of the dark.”
Ultimately, Thursday’s night conversation ended with hope and optimism that these systemic issues can be addressed and changed through deliberate and thoughtful action.
“I wouldn’t call myself a blind optimist, but I would call myself a student of history,” Moore said. “We’ve seen hard and we’ve seen tough, but we’ve also seen absolute giants who have stepped up in the face of, not just adversity, but knowing that every moment was a gift and they were going to push for a better tomorrow.”
You can watch the full conversation at vailsymposium.org.
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.