“Conversation with Theresa and Ed — Chapter 6”

“Conversation with Theresa and Ed — Chapter 6”

Picture of author walking on the Camino, Spain’s 500-mile ancient pilgrimage, in 2014

Background: To reiterate from my other recent blog posts, Theresa and Ed Wynne are my deceased parents. My father died in 1966 at the young age of fifty-six and my mother forty years later in 2006 at eighty-eight years of age.

I came up with the idea of having imaginary exchanges with them about my memoir as a unique literary technique to help illuminate the foundational aspects of my life’s journey in “understanding racism” as well as other discoveries.

So, I have developed these conversations in ways that we may have talked with each other as if they were still alive… and perhaps they are actually whispering in my ear right now! I have also attempted to frame the dialogue in a way that provides some insight on who I think they were as people of the times they lived in, as well as the significant influences they were as my parents.

I have been adding similar blog posts for each chapter and perhaps beyond, so these conversations will be continuing. Chapter 6 of my memoir is titled ‘The 2000s: The Way’.

Me: “Well Mom and Dad, welcome back again this month. It is hard to believe we are already half-way through the book and now into the 2000s. What would you like to discuss this time?

Ed: “If you don’t mind, I would just like to step back a bit since we really did not get into some of the details of the last chapter, especially about the ‘Rodney King’ and ‘OJ’ incidents in the 90s that you discussed in the memoir. I am particularly interested in expanding upon your thoughts regarding Black violence and ‘Black on Black crime’. From where we ‘see’, life in our cities doesn’t seem to have gotten any better and perhaps worse. What’s the problem with those people?”

Bill: “I do get into this subject later in the memoir and essentially the entire book explains my view on the root cause of what you identify as “Black violence” and “Black on Black crime”. My short answer is that you have to better understand the evils and the historical roots associated with WHITE SUPREMACY; I am still learning and discovering more and more about it all the time. For example, I would ask you to read the latest post on James Mulholland’s ‘Note to My White Self’ (see

He concludes his post as follows:

“The greatest threat of violence for Black people in America is not Black on Black crime.  The greatest threat of violence for Black people in America is as it has always been – white people.  Even more discouraging, they know that much of this violence will not even be considered a crime.  It will be the government and society sanctioned violence of police, prosecutors, and judges.

If we are really interested in reducing Black on Black crime, there is a simple solution. We must create a fair and equitable society where Black people can feel safe in police encounters (note: observe the video of the infamous Rodney King incident), jails, and courts as well as in the streets. We must reduce the many ways our society continues to do violence to people of color.”

Theresa: “When we were alive, we never thought about it that way. It appeared to be ‘violence for violence’s sake’ just like what happened during the 1964 Rochester riots. So, what can be done and do you see any hope in the situation improving?”

Me: “First of all, I would like to comment on Dad’s choice of words in his opening question regarding ‘those people’. This is a common trope used even today to demean and marginalize Blacks and other people of color. So, words are very important and have to be used with care.

 Culturally and societally, we have some very deep problems in this country that seem to be getting worse. These are centuries old issues formed with the advent of slavery and we appear to be at a crossroads at this time in history. For one thing, I believe our Churches all have to step up their role as moral guideposts … and specifically those denominations and followers who identify as white Christians.

As Robert P. Jones, a well-known evangelical minister and author, writes in his recent, searing book ‘White Too Long’: ’We white Christians (Catholics included) must find the courage to face the fact that the version of Christianity that our ancestors built…. was a cultural force that, by design, protected and propagated white supremacy. We have inherited this tradition with scant critique, and we have a moral and religious obligation to face the burden of that history and its demand on our present. … Reckoning with white supremacy, for us (Christians), is now an unavoidable choice.’

I strongly encourage all readers of this blog to read this important book.”

Ed: “This discussion sure went in a direction I was not prepared for and thanks for the reminder regarding my choice of words. As you will recall, I was known for being pretty verbally descriptive at times and not always in a good way. Perhaps we should move on to discuss your ongoing journey in Chapter 6 where you describe the long walk you took among many other things.”

Me: “I agree since there will be upcoming opportunities in future chapter discussions to come back to the ‘Church’ especially my own personal dilemma with it.

Regarding the title of this conversation and Chapter 6 of the book ‘The Way’, which is the literal interpretation of the Camino that I walked in 2001 and again (partially) in 2014, it might be a bit of an overstatement to describe it as an epic journey for me personally but it still lives with me to this day over twenty years later. To go back to Mom’s question about hope, I’d like to refer to page 121 of my book where I wrote: ‘The advice I would offer to myself is to suggest following (President) Obama’s example of not losing heart or becoming discouraged and to trek on like when I faced challenges on the 500-mile Camino.’

Having the capability, which I try not to take for granted, of placing one foot in front of another whether on a walk or even writing this blog provides me fortitude which supports the hope that I won’t fall over the proverbial cliff! Then when connected with the Black resiliency and courage I observe in my Black relationships virtually every day, they inform and inspire me within an even deeper confidence, courage, and hope in carrying on. For some additional inspiration, I offer the following prayer:

Lamenting Injustice (from Richard Rohr’s 8.20.22 Reflection)

How long, Lord?

How long must we cry out?

How long must the vulnerable sit silent as bombs,

     guns, cages, natural disasters threaten lives?

How long must we hear the agonizing silence of so

     many in the church?

How long, Lord?

 Are you listening? Yes? You do! You do? You do

     see us! You do hear us!

We believe you are at work bringing peace. True

     peace—flourishing, wholeness, and well-being. . . .

We believe and we feel overwhelmed—sometimes

     it is hard to believe that you actually care about

     the injustice and suffering. When we don’t see

     your work. When we sense the apathy from

     the church. When we feel small and forget that

     we were designed to be different and make

     things different.

When we feel overwhelmed by darkness in the

     world—the violence, injustice, poverty,

     oppression, abuse.

Give us hope not to be overcome.

Give us eyes to see your goodness for our world.

Give us the strength to hold the pain of injustice in

     our world and faith that it will end.

Give us courage to be honest with ourselves about

     why and how we are doing justice.

We believe. So. Empower us to disrupt our broken

     thinking by learning truth from diverse leaders.

     Enable us to discover the beauty of justice and

     inspire action in others. Embolden us to display

     your goodness in the world.’

Theresa: “That’s a beautiful prayer… thanks for sharing.

It appears that there are so many divisive aspects in the world you live in now and not just about racism. In our time on this earth, we had similar issues such as two world wars, severe economic strife in the 30s, the birth of the nuclear arms threat and the so-called Cold War, civil rights protests, political assassinations, and more. But as individual citizens, church goers, and family members there was arguably greater access, capability, and commitment towards some semblance of collective unity. Bottomline, we were willing and able to come together for what was thought to be the common good.

I may be overstating this but it sure seems different in your world today especially as there appears to be a real threat of moving towards an autocratic society vs. our almost 250-year democracy, alive but not so well today. So, how do you see the ‘hope’ you refer to that might transform this divisiveness into some semblance of unity if not a return to sanity?”

Ed: “Before you respond, Bill, I’d just like to expand upon something your mother referenced. You know that we were both WWII Navy veterans and very active in the American Legion. Millions of our brothers and sisters fought in that war to overcome prevailing autocratic forces that started the war. Many thousands of our fellow service men and women died or were wounded for the cause of preserving democracy in this world.

The gift of sacrificing their lives for this country now seems to have been forgotten or at least diminished by the apparent millions alive today who are attempting with all their might to establish an autocratic government in this country. I find that unfathomable and if we were alive today, we would renew the fight again to counter these historically forgetful and unwitting forces in your midst, and perhaps even among some of your friends and family. I hope mentioning this history and our role in it doesn’t come across as preaching from a pulpit.”

Me: “Thanks for your respective insights and question. Mom and Dad. They are very important to remember coming from two people who walked on this earth through so many challenges yourselves. The well-known title of yours being ‘the Greatest Generation’ is definitely appropriate!

Some specific ‘dis-unifiers’ today include the denial of the 2020 Presidential election results, resistance and disbelief of climate change, the creation of outright, outlandish hoaxes, incredible voter suppression tactics, elimination of abortion rights, and much, much more.

So, Unity continues to be very elusive … as does a return to social and political sanity… and things appear to be getting worse. It seems as if most of our institutional supports are all struggling in many ways including our Government, Churches, the Business sector, and even organizations meant to serve which get mired within their own “silos” and in some cases this is fed by ineptitude; I know this from my own personal experience here in Monroe County.

So, regarding Mom’s question, where do I think that HOPE resides? … well, I believe it’s present in the more positive parts of our history mentioned previously as well our future in the form of our children and grandchildren.

Additionally, there are some current initiatives which offer essential frameworks for Unifying Hope, two of which I referenced in my book.

First, Heather McGhee’s ‘The Sum of Us’ which I consider a ‘must read’. Here is an excerpt from the Amazon site about her book:

“What would make a society drain its public swimming baths and fill them with concrete rather than opening them to everyone? Economics researcher Heather McGhee sets out across America to learn why white voters so often act against their own interests. Why do they block changes that would help them, and even destroy their own advantages, whenever people of color also stand to benefit? Their tragedy is that they believe they can’t win unless somebody else loses. But this is a lie.

McGhee marshals overwhelming economic evidence, and a profound well of empathy, to reveal the surprising truth: even racists lose out under white supremacy. And United States’ racism is everybody’s problem. As McGhee shows, it was bigoted lending policies that laid the ground for the 2008 financial crisis. There can be little prospect of tackling global climate change until America’s zero-sum delusions are defeated. ‘The Sum of Us’ offers a priceless insight into the workings of prejudice, and a timely invitation to solidarity among all humans, to piece together a new story of who we could be to one another …. i.e., Unity!”


The local North Star Coalition initiative (excerpts from a December 20, 2021 Beacon article, a local online news feed):

More than 200 organizations have joined the call (of the Rochester Area Community Foundation; RACF) to ensure the Rochester region makes an inclusive recovery, within the North Star Coalition. The effort, which was launched (in 2021) and spans nine counties, pledges to put dollars in the hands of people who have historically been on the economic margins.

An Urban Institute report found that Rochester ranked 241st out of 274 cities on overall inclusion, 236th on economic inclusion, and 223rd on racial inclusion. The nonprofit research organization defines overall inclusion as the ability of historically excluded populations (lower-income residents and people of color) to contribute to and benefit from economic prosperity. It combines economic and racial inclusion.

Economic inclusion is measured by income segregation, housing affordability and other factors, while racial inclusion examines racial segregation, gaps in homeownership, poverty, and people of color as a percentage of a city’s population.

The Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution quickly became resources for RACF, offering insights on future actions, as the organization dove deeper into understanding Rochester’s position when it came to equity and inclusion. RACF shared the information with community leaders and members to get ideas on how to implement an equitable and inclusive recovery. They did not want a new nonprofit to work on it, but they did feel strongly that Rochester needed to embrace the concept of such a recovery.

More than $800 million is headed to the city of Rochester, Monroe County, the Rochester City School District and Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority through various federal relief efforts including the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan Act, the Urban Institute estimates. The city of Rochester is expected to receive $234 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan. Monroe County will get $312 million, and the Rochester City School District is to receive $296 million from education relief funds. Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority has been allocated $109 million.

(This will include) players from various sectors including philanthropy, government, and labor. (The RACF) hopes that the region will lean in and take advantage of the unprecedented infusion of funds to create positive outcomes. The Urban Institute, Brookings, ACT Rochester, RACF and others expect to assist with spending decisions. The Urban Institute will continue to offer evidence and analyses to help the coalition.”

“Lastly, from another more recent Beacon article on August 1st titled ‘Reparations. Finally.’ — the closing excerpt states:

“Reparations could be anchored in the policies of the 20th century alone as they have resulted in the massive wealth gap today: Black Americans earn 60 percent of whites but have only 10 percent of the wealth. And wealth begets wealth. Many white suburban families have accumulated resources to advantage their offspring—SAT classes, college consultants, and unpaid internships that fluff college applications. Again, juxtapose those stories with the end of affirmative action by a white supremacy system that rebranded an initiative designed to address racism and disparities as “reverse racism.”

No governmental agency has ever apologized for the harm done to Black Americans, who have been clearly and repeatedly persecuted in state-sanctioned ways—leaving them only the slimmest path to the American Dream.

Recently, California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans produced an interim report calling for a number of measures, including long-overdue reparations, that would begin to acknowledge our racist history and the role it plays in today’s neighborhoods, schools, policing, higher education institutions, health care, corporations, government and, of course, wealth gap. The final report is due out by July 1, 2023.

The interim report’s recommendations include three that address the racial wealth gap:

■ Implement a detailed program of reparations for African Americans;

■ Develop and implement other policies, programs, and measures to close the racial wealth gap

■ Provide funding and technical assistance to Black-led and Black community-based land trusts to support wealth building and affordable housing.

The cost of enslavement on the Black community is well documented and requires our attention, not to create guilt in our white community, but to address the greatest of “wrongs,” as well as demonstrate that our country has national credibility. Many white Americans ponder what can—or should—be done in response to past injustices. We suggest the following as a start:

1. The federal and local governments must apologize to the descendants of the enslaved population;

2. Rochester and other communities should begin a truth and reconciliation program to give voice to the harms perpetrated on our Black citizens;

3. The U.S. Senate should pass S. 40, a bill introduced by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., that would establish a congressional commission for the study of reparations proposals. As Booker said last year when a companion bill was sent to the House floor:

 “Our nation has not yet fully acknowledged and grappled with the painful legacy of slavery, white supremacy, and systemic racism that tainted this country’s founding and continues to persist in deep racial disparities and inequalities today. It’s important that we right the wrongs of our nation’s most discriminatory policies that halted the upward mobility of African American communities for generations, and we cannot truly move forward without first fully documenting the extent of the harms of the past.

The cost of racism to our nation and local community could not be clearer than after the racist murders of 10 Black people in neighboring Buffalo. It is the responsibility of our white communities to confront the malignancy of racism and directly and intentionally respond to racist comments, behaviors, and social media posts. It is also our responsibility as white citizens to confront white supremacy wherever and whenever we see it—and that begins with quieting the opposition and openly advocating reparations. Finally.”

“All three of these initiatives provide THE ESSENCE OF UNITY! … and paths to move forward with HOPE!”

Theresa: “In combination, these three remind me of the famous, post-WWII ‘Marshall Plan’ that rescued a devastated Europe. If the federal government mobilized a similar plan to finally wipeout white supremacy and deployed comparable funding, perhaps similar to the miracle of the Phoenix rising in Europe with worldwide benefits, such an initiative would likewise create unimaginable rewards to EVERYONE in American society following McGhee’s thinking.”

Me: “It is really heartening to hear you use the analogy of the Marshall Plan. To quote from an online description: ‘The Marshall Plan benefited the United States economically through trade with Europe by rapidly getting Europe back in business. Trade creates wealth and the more trade, the more wealth for all involved.’ This is identical to McGhee’s philosophy today.

If white supremacy were to be eliminated, it would raise the soul of this country to heights considered (if at all!) unreachable for centuries let alone the other benefits you alluded to. It may sound impossible today, but I believe that the younger generations of society could make this achievable; those of us who are the ‘old wood’ will have to get out of the way though.”

Ed: “Well, there’s still a lot of wisdom within the older ranks that should not be overlooked and I guess that’s why you are ‘talking’ to us.”

Me: “Indeed there is and yet I’m reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and the famous verse that starts out ‘There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven’. I firmly believe that new blood in the form of younger leadership is much needed throughout our politics and institutions and that those of us who are older should assist in that transition with the wisdom gained over a lifetime, including that gained through our many mistakes and failures such as white supremacy.”

Theresa: “I agree with you, Bill. What other programs or policy pursuits are out there that might be helpful that encompass the broad spectrum of society? I phrase the question this way because in my or our experience and as I mentioned earlier, the collective pursuit of the common good I believe is the most effective approach. Individuals like yourself who are trying to make the world a better place can only go solo so far. There are of course many notable exceptions to this but that’s why I referenced the Marshall Plan where huge forces intervened to make a positive difference.”

Me: “Another great question and I’ll give you three additional examples right off the top:

  • The ‘Poor Peoples Campaign’ (PPC). It has its roots going back to the 60s with Rev. Martin Luther King and encompasses all the poor irrespective of skin color. It is currently under the leadership of Rev. William J. Barber who is pursuing a ‘National Call for Moral Revival’ to improve the lives of over 140m poor and low-income people in this country; and yes, that’s a correct number! See
  • Climate Change and Environmental Justice; these are obviously worldwide in scope impacting literally everyone alive on this planet; so, it would be challenging to think of larger collective initiatives in scope and magnitude. There are so many sites available on both of these I am not going to pinpoint any one specifically. I would like to add, however, that these in combination arguably exceed antiracism pursuits in terms of significance due to the very urgent attention required NOW to literally save our planet.
  • ‘Hope Chicago’ (see I am not going to get into this initiative right now but it’s worth exploring this ‘hopeful’ site. I can tell you that I have recently challenged the local business community to explore a ‘Hope Rochester’ version. So, this will be a topic for future conversation.

In closing, I offer up the title of this chapter conversation, ‘The Way’, as a metaphor for the HOPEFUL pursuit of the common good through support for the initiatives listed above. Hopefully they provide some guidance as to what might be possible on each of our individual journeys to better the world in any way we can, and then taken together as a collective body of individual commitments, develops into a torrent of positive change for the country and the world.

I conclude with two quotes; the first from Bishop Desmond Tutu that speaks to how ‘Unity’ can work:

‘We are made for interdependence, made to live in an incredible dedicated web of interdependence. A world where I make up what is lacking in you and you make up what is lacking in me.” Tutu was a South African Anglican bishop and theologian, known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist.’

Lastly, ‘Change happens most sustainably when our agency is collective, practiced in solidarity, and rooted in trust.’ (Amira K. S. Barger)

Ed: “This was a great conversation again, Bill, and we sure covered a lot of territory. We can’t wait for our next chat as we continue to join you on ‘The Way’!”

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