It's often been said that greatness skips generations, but clearly this is not the case with Archbishop Desmond Tutu's daughter, Naomi Tutu. Her delightful sense of humor and ebullient optimism about improving race relations in the world inspired a Prom Center audience in Oakdale Monday night.
Tutu was there as the featured keynote speaker at the St. Paul Foundation's Facing Race Ambassador Awards Celebration and Minnesota Public Radio featured Tutu and her uplifting advocacy in its programming this week.
Notwithstanding President Obama's election, America still has a major race problem, startng with our discomfort at even acknowledging we have a problem, Tutu said. And a disturbingly large percentage of Americans are uninformed about the history of discrimination and slavery , white privilege and advantage, and the de facto and de jure apartheid (we beat Tutu's South Africa in outlawing segregation by only about 30 years) that existed in the United States until 1965.
Tutu exhorted the racially diverse packed ballroom to get face-to-face with each other and "tell our stories.'' Her memorable closing words: "We are greater than how we act toward one another today...A just world is not just possible but probable...We speak of justice because we are determined to have justice.'
So what can we do? At Growth & Justice, one of our top priorities is closing the so-called achievement gap and dramatically increasing performance and higher-education attainment levels for our fast-growing minority populations, and our Smart Investments in Minnesota's Students project shows the way. But lots of other things need to be done, in the way of starting conversations and working our head around the pervasive ways that racial animosity and ignorance pervades our community.
And the St. Paul Foundations' "Facing Race Initiative'' website page provides a wealth of infomation and suggested community involvement that will help us first "face race,'' and then dispel racism and the toxic economic inequality that comes with it.