Becoming A Half Shade Braver

Listen to this Sufi Wisdom:

Mulla Nusrudin was out in his yard with his lantern searching for something

when his friend came by and asked what he was doing. “I lost my key and

I am trying to find it.” The friend began helping him to search, they were

both down on the ground searching and searching without finding anything.

Finally, the friend asked, “where did you lose the key?” Mulla answered, “I

lost it in the house, but the light is better out here.”

Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart


“I lost it in the house, but the light is better out here,” illustrates a practice that we employ too much of the time as we work to solve the problems confronting us as a people. No wonder we seem to be in an endless circle that has no exit as we address the many challenges before us. Though the list is long, let us explore some of the ways that we organize ourselves around seeking racial healing and dismantling racism remedies in the wrong way.


The most profound example of that at the moment is exemplified in the great rush to make reparations more about money than justice. While the idea of finding the descendants of people held in slavery who were forced to help create this wealthy ungrateful nation and giving them a little bit of money is not a bad idea within itself, it falls far short of what true reparations will have to address. It is not enough to be happy to give the great grandson or granddaughter of those who were enslaved money while continuing to support systemic racism by not addressing the oppressive structures that continue to hold them in bondage.



So those descendants have a little bit of money. But the lack of access to good education, environmentally stable neighborhoods, fair and equitable educational opportunities, economic structures that support the path toward personal sustainability, a legal system that understands and practices justice, good medical care and public safety, and policing practices that support life instead of taking lives erase the benefit of the money. Therefore, in order not to be looking in the wrong place by designing a reparations system based upon money only as a remedy for dismantling systemic racism, there has to be a turn toward finding the courage to seek and tell the truth about what it really takes to act in a just way toward those descendants.

For years it was quite radical to talk about reparations. When that subject arose most white people departed the conversation and began to express their understanding of how unfeasible it was to think of implementing such a program. But, at this point it seems that the energy has shifted and so many white people are excited about reparations. I wonder why? It seems to me that one of the reasons is that it is easier to identify a few people for whom a bit of money can be given than it is to come to the justice table prepared to ask what it takes to make this country a place where fairness, equity and genuine efforts to create structures that serve the common good can be designed and implemented. Instead, the question seems to be, “what is the easiest way to make things look better?” Of course, the easiest way is to pitch money on the table to address the racist practices instead of interrogating those practices and changing them.

Along with this practice are numerous other examples of the ways in which we look for the lost key in the yard instead of inside the house where it was lost. Our remedy for the poor educational and economic access issue is to build prisons to accommodate those who will not be able to navigate the impoverished and racist world that has been created for them.


Today might be as good a day as any to turn ourselves around and make the decision to seek the courage to look for answers in the best place regardless of what it costs to be honest. Perhaps we can find the path to being a half shade braver. What do you think?