Each episode was dramatic and compelling, often downright heart wrenching to watch. Individuals caught in the grips of a terrible addiction that made their personal lives, and the lives of the ones around them, a living hell. It wasn’t just the substance abuser themselves who paid a price, family members, loved ones and friends did so as well.
A&E’s reality television show “Intervention” made for riveting television. The objective of the show was to confront a person in a nonthreatening way and allow him or her to see their self-destructive behavior, and how it affects them as well as their family and friends. The hoped-for outcome was to introduce, and have the person accept and adhere to, a deliberate process through which change could slowly take place in their thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
The show ended up having around a 70 percent rehabilitative success rate. It was a painful process. People had to be seriously confronted with the truth, but that’s what it took to usher in change. In our society, when it comes to the issue of race, we’re in need of an intervention.
Such a statement, though, is often met with cynicism and derision. Questions such as, “Why care?” “Why open up old wounds?” “Can’t we just move on?” are often put forth, yet, I would submit that as a society we can’t truly move forward until this cancer that’s devouring us from within is addressed. The very fact that it’s so hard to talk about race, that people try so hard to avoid it, or pretend it’s a non-issue, lets you know just how serious and acute the problem really is. Avoidance and denial are always telltale signs.
Starting this school year about five million Texas students started using a new history textbook that downplays issues like slavery in U.S. history, along with the role slavery played as a pivotal issue in the Civil War. The book outright omits significant events like the Jim Crow period/segregation era. A world geography book even implies blacks were brought to this country as “workers” or placed in the same category as other “immigrants” to the U.S.
Why should this be an issue? Because ignoring history doesn’t help the present. We don’t have to continually relive the past, but we should always be aware of it. Just as the good in our nation’s past is used to call us to a higher, more noble purpose as a people, rightly knowing and understanding the bad can serve as a cautionary tale of how even the noblest ideas can become tainted when moral courage goes lacking and there is no steadfast commitment to “equal justice for all.”
As Americans, and particularly as Southern Americans, we love our history. Yet in 2015, we still have a problem seeing it clearly. We need an intervention.
Ignoring the past allows us to ignore or deride important facts in the present. The unfortunate tragedy in South Carolina, in which nine black parishioners were gunned down by a racist vigilante, did a lot to awaken the consciousness of many in the South. Confederate battle flags on public property throughout the South came down. Even our own governor did so, acknowledging it was the “right thing to do.” The flag was not just a standard or symbol used by the KKK, but even a cursory examination of film footage from the Civil Rights period shows ordinary whites — male and female, young and old — often raising up this banner during the height of the civil rights movement and using it as a rallying cry against the advancement of rights for black Americans. Yet certain government entities in the South have not mustered the moral courage or will to take it down from public property, despite the hateful way it was used in our nation’s history. One such government entity is the Mobile County Commission. We need an intervention.
Going unaddressed and ignored, the issue of race in our society is like a sore desperately in need of lancing. Only by slicing open the sore can true healing begin. It requires looking honestly and openly at what has been, and at what is. To address issues like school resegregation, mainly due to residential housing patterns that isolate and marginalize minorities, is not to lay blame on any group, it’s just to acknowledge that in our society we still have some deep and abiding issues that need addressing. To acknowledge the systemic high unemployment rate among minorities, particularly male minorities, is not to automatically advocate giving a certain group more money than another group, but it is a call to recognize that for the benefit of society as a whole we must formalize and institute solutions to a problem that has been decades in the making.
The key part of any intervention is the acknowledgment and acceptance of truth, not in the laying of blame or settling a score. If we can look clearly at our past and accept the facts about where we are, we can start charting an effective and clear course to a better future. Denial won’t get us where we need to be as a nation when it comes to race. The acceptance of, and acting upon, truth will.