Racism is the cancer that corrodes the fabric of diversity in this great melting pot we call America.
Racism is the ignorant beast that corrupts the pillars of our Constitution like millions of termites gnawing away at a once-mighty structure.
Racism -- institutional or personal -- is what will bring America down. Not a foreign enemy but rather a domestic malady is our country's greatest threat to freedom today.
Sometimes the feeling of hopelessness is a bit overwhelming.
Those of us who worked in the battlefronts during the emotionally charged Civil Rights era -- marching with Dr. King, organizing with Cesar Chavez, doing precinct work for Jack and Bobby Kennedy, visionaries of social justice all -- sometimes wonder where we are headed in today's glossed-over, quick-fix era of computer sameness and multi-media intoxication.
Those of us with battle scars don't trust life without pain, and we worry that giant strides can't be made without the price that needs to be paid.
What makes me so excited about the California Mentor Initiative, among other reasons for enthusiasm, is that it helps eliminate the effects of racism, one child at a time.
Working as a mentor is a great way to make reparations for social injustice. This is where the real work of America is today -- in the gaping maw of disenfranchisement, in the jaws of racial inequity, in the clanging isolation of poverty, hunger and alienation from the great American dream, which means full inclusion in the equal pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.
I know a mentor who keeps a prayer pasted to his headboard. He says this prayer every night, because it heightens his awareness of what he is about when he leads his young protege out of the clutches of racial injustice and into healthy participation in the American experience:
Dear God, please forgive our grievous errors. We atone and ask forgiveness for our early treatment of the indigenous people, the natives of the North American continent who suffered devastation at the hands of our forefathers.
We atone and ask forgiveness for the racist streak in American history, the slavery in both body and spirit of African-American men, women and children, who have lived among us and suffered among us the sting of our unfair dominion.
We atone and ask forgiveness for the mistaken places in us, wherein we have sought to suppress and harm the children of the Lord. We atone and ask forgiveness for the places where we do this still, where we hate, dear Lord, and do harm, dear Lord, and lay unfair judgment on our brothers and sisters.
Help us, Lord, to mend our thoughts that we no longer rebel against Your Spirit, which is Love. Forgive us now. Turn our darkness into light, dear God, through Your power which does these things, that we might awaken to a new America. May hatred be replaced by love and true justice prevail.
May we meet each other in newborn brotherhood now and forever. Take from us the burdens of our history, our transgressions toward others. To people of color whom we have offended, please forgive us.
We acknowledge the evils of past behavior and the suffering, which it caused. We ask that God in His glory compensate for the evil done unto your people. We apologize for the past, and ask that you open your hearts to us now.
We bless your children, and acknowledge their brilliance. Please bless ours. Wash us clean, dear God, and heal us. Amen.
(The preceding prayer can also be seen in Marianne Williamson's book, "The Healing of America.")
Mentoring is such an important part of reviving America as we head toward the millennium. Won't you join in the adventure?