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"UBUNTU" RECONCILIATION
Between (1) Peoples, (2) Organizations and (3) Peoples and Organizations

The Example of South Africa for Minneapolis

Solution Paper #18, by Ron Edwards and Peter Jessen/Beacon on the Hill Press
October 1, 2, 4, 2003, posted November 11, 2003
Based on “The Minneapolis Story, Through My Eyes”
By Ron Edwards as told to Peter Jessen

#163. Minneapolis needs Archbishop Desmond Tutu's "Ubuntu Theology of Reconciliation, " Part 1 of 3 [Wednesday, October 1, 2003]

In Chapter 14 of my book, "The Minneapolis Story, Through My Eyes," I touch briefly on the experience Nellie Stone Johnson and I had with Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, back in the 80s. The title of Archbishop Tutu's book, No Future Without Forgiveness as well as his work on South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission have many good things to say to us that relate directly to the current firestorms in Minneapolis, and, in particular the one regarding the firestorm over the appointment of Superintendent of the Minneapolis Public Schools. Once again, we have been diverted by old hatreds of yesterday that prevent us from doing good today so that we can't create the future we want. Our topic should be how poorly Minneapolis (and every other city in this country) educates inner city Black kids. That the NAACP has backed the appointment is really not the issue (it has long stood for the status quo and going along with the Masters in their big house as it stays away as much as possible from the fields). The issue is the fact that the NAACP hasn't stood up to the district as a whole over its poor perfomance with Black kids, especially during the tenures of Black superintendents. The man the board wants once opposed making Martin Luther King's birthday as a national holiday (but so did President Jimmy Carter, and thus it was that it was Ronald Reagan who signed it into law). He was also opposed to divestiture as the way to fight apartheid in South Africa (which was also the position of the University of Minnesota and many in the DFL, so he again was in a large company). I am nervous when we hold specific views of the past against people selectively, as some are held up and others are given a pass.

This needs to stop. Why? Because our kids are the ones who pay for the hatreds of their parents. And don't forget that even though the Repubicans get the blame for the flag of the Confederacy flying over the Capitol of South Carolina, it was a Democratic Governor, Fritz Holllings, who put it up there (incidentally, I like Hollings current web site slogan: "Performance is better than promise" and recommend we apply it to the MPS). And I don't hear any in the Black community taking Senator Robert Byrd to task for his past membership in the Ku Klux Klan nor for his recent use of the "N" word.

Earlier I talked about the need to use specific tools of conflict resolution, of which a list is on my web site in the paper on "Conflict Resolutions Models" posted in June 2003. We have just added two more, including the model used by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. As I explain in my book (Chapter 14) Nellie Stone Johnson and I had several telephone conversations with Archbishop Tutu. We were going to bring him to the campus of the University of Minnesota. Tutu urged divestiture (to fight apartheid by selling stocks of companies that do business in South Africa). Nellie and I supported that. Others felt it would delay not hasten the end of apartheid. And just as there was White fear and Black anger in South Africa, we had them here too (still have them in Minneapolis). We also talked with the journalist Eric Duma. Their phones were tapped. The government of South Africa called the U.S. which in turn called the University of Minnesota. The University Board of Governors had refused to apply sanctions. The university denied our request to have Tutu speak at the University. Read about it in my book: p. 222: "Local officials, public and private, didn't want Bishop Tutu because…they didn't want a campus movement in favor of disinvestments when the University had already determined it would not divest nor favor divestment." Not the University's finest hour.

In my next Blog entry, I'll explain Archbishop Tutu's philosophy behind his theology of reconciliation for integrating South Africa after apartheid and how it can be used today in Minneapolis.

#164. Minneapolis needs Archbishop Desmond Tutu's "Ubuntu Theology of Reconciliation. " Part 2 of 3. [ Thursday, October 2, 2003, 12:25/5:20 p.m. ]

Part 1 is #163. Some ask why I keep mentioning in public the fact that some of the local Black leaders harangued my book for over an hour a year ago demanding no one read it, no one buy it, just as they demand from our young Blacks to get permission from them before they do anything (even though when they were young they themselves didn't ask permission; see the moving story on this in the Spokesman-Recorder (9/18-24/03, p. 1). Our local Black leadership are people Archbishop Desmond Tutu would say are deeply in need of his "Ubuntu Theology of Reconciliation." Too often, like the religious leaders in the story of the Good Samaritan, they have passed by on the other side and not attended to the broken ones in our community, preferring instead that the broken ones come to their doors first. Their record is a scandal to those who follow Archbishop Tutu (which I discuss in Chapter 14 of my book). And in Chapter 5 of my of my book, I call for a common approach to use to resolve our conflicts and solve our problems: apply the Golden Rule. At the heart of "justice and fairness" (the title of my Chapter 5) is how we treat each other in order to give all "equal access and equal opportunity." The leadership of the NAACP continues to fail to apply the Golden Rule. In my book, on p. 99, I raise three questions:

First: To be fair or not to be fair, especially in education, housing, and economic development (including jobs, living wages, and Black entrepreneurial growth)? Second: To determine what the "do" is that we want everyone to do unto everyone else: What is it? Third: Are we willing to practice this individually and collectively? In other words, are we willing to treat others in education, housing, jobs, wages, entrepreneurial activity, the way we want to be treated?

In terms of the first one, what I see in terms of the Black community, is that we are not being fair to our kids because of how we fight each other or fight Whites from the stand point of what we as adults want not from the stand point of what is good for the kids. In terms of the second one, I have answered "what to do" by gathering all of my solutions in my book into Chapter 17 and in a new paper, my “7 Solutions” in the Solution Papers section of this web site. The seven areas are education, jobs, housing, public safety, safe environment, governing, and ethics. In terms of the third one: our treatment of each other and of those outside our community has not followed either Rev. Leon Sullivan (see Chapter 14 and 17) nor Archbishop Tutu (see Chapter 17), and for this any person of conscience should feel shame. We can learn from them. In a nutshell, unless we start practicing the Golden Rule, let go of the past but not forget it, and focus on how to bring all up to speed in terms of education, jobs, housing, public safety, etc., then we are all less. However, by working together to bring these opportunities to everyone, to be sure that all are invited to the table, we can all be more than we are. As Tutu says in his book No Future Without Forgiveness:

I am because we are. We belong together. Our humanity is bound up with one another. We say in our languages, a person is a person through other persons. A solitary being is a contradiction in terms. I learn how to become a human being through association with other human beings.

Archbishop Tutu chaired the South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission was a pioneering international event. Never before had any country sought to move forward from despotism to democracy both by exposing the atrocities committed in the past and by achieving reconciliation with its former oppressors. This is a model, surely, for use in Ireland and the Middle East. He emphasized restorative justice, not retributional justice. As he says, "The future cannot be without forgiveness." Thus, "To forgive is indeed the best form of self-interest, since anger, resentment, and revenge are corrosive of that summum bonum, the greatest good." This is why, in Chapter 5 of my book, I demonstrate why the best response to each other is the Golden Rule. The more we can do that the more we can respond with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s non-violent responses, so we can stop the deferment of our dream, and hasten the day when we attain the prize on which we all must keep our eyes.

#172. Minneapolis needs Archbishop Desmond Tutu's "Ubuntu Theology of Reconciliation, " Part 3 of 3. [ Saturday, October 4, 2003, 8:55 a.m. ]

Here I let the Kirkus Review of Archbishop Tutu's book, No Future Without Forgiveness, speak in this third statement (emphasis added):

No Future Witout Forgiveness is the "…story of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and a meditation on evil and forgiveness from Nobel laureate Tutu (The Rainbow People of God: The Making of a Peaceful Revolution, 1994). In 1994, South Africa faced a historically unique situation. A long-oppressed majority had peacefully taken power from its minority oppressor. As Tutu explains, the question facing the nation was, What then to do? Should Nuremberg-like trials be held against those who had maintained the ghastly system of apartheid? Or, as many whites wished, should the past be forgotten, let bygones be bygones? The new regime found what Tutu calls “a third way” to deal with the past: the TRC. Those who had committed politically motivated crimes during the apartheid era would receive amnesty if they made full and truthful public disclosures. In turn, the victims of such acts would be allowed to tell their stories in the hopes that this would restore a measure of their human dignity. Over 18 months some 20,000 victims appeared before the commission, imparting their tales of personal anguish--of torture, rape, imprisonment--but also exposing a system perpetrated and supported by the highest levels of government, military, and police. No longer could anyone deny knowledge of the past, as so many whites had; never again would such an evil be allowed to exist in South Africa. Yet it would be not only supporters of apartheid answering for their deeds. Those who had committed crimes in the fight against the system, including Winnie Mandela, would answer for their acts as well. Tutu’s writing on this process is nothing short of miraculous. He is strong in his defense of the commission that so many doubted as either too harsh or too lenient. He is also anguished by the depths of human depravity the commission hearings revealed, but passionately hopeful that human caring and unity might prevail, in South Africa and the world. [a] sober depiction and searing indictment of evil and [a] never-maudlin advocacy of love."


Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm. Formerly head of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission and the Urban League, he continues his “watchdog” role for Minneapolis. Order his book, hear his voice, read his solution papers, and read his between columns “web log” at www.TheMinneapolisStory.com.

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