By Kevin Daniels
Last year around this same time of the year, I wrote an article entitled, “Reimagining Civility in an Uncivil Society (Part I),” and at that time over 69 percent of American’s stated that we have a civility problem in the country, and one year later the 2019 civility report, states that now over 93 percent of Americans identify incivility as a deep concern in the country – classifying it as a “major problem.”
A recent New York Times report stated:“We are in a real dark place” when immigrants are warehoused in unsanitary conditions, and we normalize a dead father and his daughter lying face down in the water along the Rio Grande. “We are in a real dark place” when the President of the United States sets a negative racial cadence at a rally in Greenville N.C., while the crowd yells concerning Ilhan Omar to “send her back.” “We are in a real dark place” when a sitting president of the entire United States makes comments concerning our great city of Baltimore by tweeting to Congressman Elijah Cummings that: “If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous and filthy place,” a district in which he considers “the worst in the USA” and “no human being would want to live there.” We are in a real dark place in the city of Baltimore if we don’t use this moment to continue to coalesce and come together to further demonstrate that this city was, and is, critical to the success of the entirety of the country at large.
Subsequently, the original civility article discussed that since the times and legacy of President George Washington, many have attempted to codify general rules for a civil society but have then gone on to allow for and support the dehumanization of people of color, women, and what the sacred prophetic book calls “the other.” However, If civility is to be imagined, it must consider the “Commandments of Public Civility (adapted)” which suggests, where possible:
- Explore areas of common ground where legitimate disagreements exist, in an effort to move forward on matters of public importance;
- Always remember that it is okay to agree to disagree, and that reasonable people can indeed disagree reasonably;
- Do not ridicule or belittle a colleague, or a member of the public, simply because he or she disagrees with you on an issue;
- Always serve as a bridge for others to make it from one vantage point to the other in that it will serve as a catalyst to a more civil society;
- Serve as a conduit of empowerment in that it creates potential self-sufficient communities, and
- Seek the well- being of all people, and it will potentially build a stronger humanity.
Lastly, for civility to be realized in the city and around the country, we must be prepared to go beyond just codified “Commandments of Public Civility;” we must become activists whose actions seek to develop what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deemed a “Beloved Community” of reconciliation of the human ethos and redemptive acts of human progress and achievement. The “Beloved Community” was not a lofty utopian goal to be confused with the rapturous image of the peaceable kingdom, in which lions and lambs coexist in idyllic harmony, but the “Beloved Community” is a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to what is now considered “societal and human respectability,” human uplift and a societal change that reflects the same.
Jim Nelson Black said that a nation and a city begin to die when the social, cultural, and moral respectability of its people has begun to decay. We cannot keep calling ourselves “a city on the hill, “while allowing some of the citizens of that hill to live in valley conditions. Again, for civility to take place, it must be an intentional reboot in our public discourse that allows for no one to be fractured nor paralyzed in their endeavors towards access and emerging opportunities. The prophetic and sacred book calls for leadership “To be repairers of the breach,” and “Not to let unwholesome talk to come out of our mouths, but only what helps build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Dr. Kevin Daniels, Chair of Civic Action (Minister’s Conference of Baltimore and Vicinity) Associate Professor, Morgan State University (Social Work), Pastor, St. Martin Church.
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