Free Speech & Peace

Conversations about race, equality, and the American experience

June 18, 2020

It can feel like we’re coming apart at the seams. The national narrative is saturated with news around increasing unrest, anxiety, fear, and polarization. Those trends are rooted in real problems. But as Americans grapple with them, they’re also looking for positive alternatives.

Organizations such as Braver Angels offer a path forward—driving a movement that seeks to create a space for dialogue to help us better understand each other and learn from each other. In a time where we’re having important conversations about race, equality, and the American experience, hearing each other’s voices is incredibly important.

In a recent commentary, Braver Angels Director of Public Outreach John Wood Jr. shares his experience as a biracial African American in Culver City, California during the Los Angeles riots in 1992. He contrasts his experience with that of his wife, who grew up in a neighboring area, but in a thoroughly different America.

Fifteen miles away, in the Jordan Downs project in Watts, a 4-year-old girl was trapped in a war zone. The woman I would marry 15 years later remembers gunfire and the explosions. She remembers the sirens and the impotent efforts of authorities to gain control as her neighborhood erupted. She remembers innocent people caught in the crossfire.

Looking at the death of George Floyd and the unrest that has followed, my wife sees not the exceptional but the familiar—this cauldron of pain we now see boiling over in America once again. The pain is real. But so is the progress that our ancestors fought for and realized. Do we conserve and build on it in search of Martin Luther King Jr.’s beloved community? Or do we reject an American project for which our own people have sacrificed so much?

This is a conversation for all black America. It is a conversation for all those who would stand with us.

We can’t chart a path forward unless we know where we’re coming from. That’s why storytelling and the freedom to express our thoughts and opinions are so important.

History shows the power of free expression as a tool to confront injustice. Past advocates of equal rights who urged greater inclusion and spoke out against intolerance and bigotry were often unpopular at first. But the elevation of their stories of injustice and perseverance, as well as the dialogue that ensued, resulted in positive change.

Learn more about Braver Angels here. And learn more here about other partners we’re working alongside to create space for Americans to come together, share their experiences, and learn from each other.