Bridging the Gap: How Latasha Morrison is Going to Change the World
Latasha Morrison founded her organization Be the Bridge in 2016 in order to create conversations about the realities of racism in our society and to equip people to be agents of change and healing as they cross the racial divide. Since then, Latasha has become an author, speaker, and conversation-starter, and her new book Be the Bridge, which invites readers to challenge and overcome their personal biases, will be released on October 15th.
This week, I had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Latasha and asking her some questions to help Hope readers discover more about the amazing work that she is doing to create hope in our society.
HFW: First off, your book is incredible. I couldn’t put it down, and I walked away from it with a whole new perspective and a desire to do better. This book is going to change a lot of lives! That said, what was the catalyst that caused you to write this book?
LM: I wanted to go deeper than the [original Be the Bridge discussion] guide. With a guide, you want to keep it simple and engage people in the conversation. But I wanted to go deeper than the guide in explaining concepts and history. So, this book will complement the guide. I desire to see the Church be better and to give the Church a tool and resource to educate itself to be better. We don’t do better when we don’t know better; lack of information causes conflict.
HFW: In your book, you discuss how history has been whitewashed in America’s churches, schools, and government documents. What are some resources that you would recommend to people searching for true historical accounts that have not been tainted by systemic whitewashing?
LM: It all depends on who things are written by--you want to search for authors of color, historians of color, historical workers of color. Also, look at the actual historical documents. People in Texas say that the state’s secession was not about slavery, but when you read the actual secession documents, it was about slavery! Read slave narratives, and know the history from the people who lived the history. For example, if I’m trying to learn about Native American history, I’m gonna make sure to read Native American authors. When you’re reading accounts by white authors, those accounts will be told or learned from their historical perspective versus someone else’s interpretation; their cultural lens and fragility are gonna make things sound better. So, instead, search out truth-telling books with diverse authors. African American history and Native American history are American history!
HFW: In your book, you stated that you desire to create “a bridge of voices that is about equity of marginalized voices, not equality” through your book and organization. What do you mean by that phrase, and why do you believe this is essential?
LM: Equity is about movement toward racial reconciliation and making it right; it’s not about equality, rather, it’s lifting up the voices that haven’t been heard, that have been marginalized. Equality places two groups on equal footing; for example, if there are ten people in a room, and they are all given the same amount of time to talk, five men and five women will be invited to speak. But marginalized people [like the women in the scenario] need to speak more because their voices haven’t been heard! White folks, listen to people of color; you need to listen to me! We’ve listened and heard you already--all the books out there already reflect your perspective. Center people of color; de-center people who are not.
HFW: Your foundation, Be the Bridge, is built on the concept of using God’s truth to ignite racial reconciliation. What would you say to those who do not share your faith, yet still desire racial reconciliation?
LM: People outside the faith use different words like, “How do we make it right?”, but it’s still the same idea. Reconciliation is simply a more spiritual word; we still want to see things made right. In either discipline, it’s still a question of how we move forward. Regardless of what faith you come from, I use the word of God to show Christians how we should be navigating this conversation. Our theology informs our values and belief systems; even the Church is impacted by racism. But at least within the Church, you have scripture to hold to, stories of faith that can get people to where they can see God’s Biblical justice. When it’s not a personal faith, its harder to draw on those spiritual understandings, but you can still focus on the historical understandings.
HFW: Emotions can be overwhelming. In your book, you emphasize the importance of sitting in emotions like anger, sadness, pain, and rage, in order to process them. How does a person dwell in those emotions and allow themselves to feel them in a healthy way, without becoming overwhelmed by them?
LM: You will at some point become overwhelmed by those emotions. However, you have to take it one step at a time; focus on whatever that next right thing is. What do I do in this next moment? What do I do next week? Next month? We can only control our controllables; I can’t control what everyone else does, only what I do. Why am I overwhelmed? Am I overwhelmed at the fact that I don’t know much about this? Let me set up a plan. Before you lead outwardly, you have to lead within.
HFW: In your book, you discuss the difference between “race” and “ethnicity.” Could you explain for our readers what that difference is? Those terms are often used in society interchangeably, when in reality they mean wildly different things.
LM: Race is a political and social construct that was created by one group in order to suppress another group. In the 1760 American Census, the word “white” comes up for the first time in an attempt to differentiate between white and black people; so, there would be no “black” if there was no “white.” Western culture has always been individualistic--”anything different than yourself is negative”--and chattel slavery is something that America invented. Ethnicity is about culture, place, language, expression, it’s not about skin color. A lot of people in Africa are black but have no more DNA connection than you and someone in Scotland! Ethnicity is created by God, race is created by man; one has oppressed and abused people and the other hasn’t. But we can’t ignore race because then we start ignoring the systems that are part of that classification, but we do have to start unwinding it. As humans, we are a race. As pertains to my culture and ethnicity, that’s not my race.
HFW: What has most inspired you to keep waging this difficult war against the darkness of America’s culture of ignorance and hate?
LM: The people who came before me. Heroes, people whose voices were heard even when they didn’t have the privileges that I have: civil rights leaders, abolitionists, who were doing the same work with less. Wow, this is hard now? It was hard then. Look what Sojourner Truth had to overcome! Look at the faith that led those people and the steadfastness that those leaders had to have.
HFW: Your organization Be the Bridge has founded thousands of subgroups across the country, and you’ve been recognized by prestigious organizations like Forbes and Ebony. What is your ultimate goal for Be the Bridge, both the book and the organization?
LM: We want to build a sustainable organization that will be around after I’m gone. That takes a different type of leadership and strategy than we have right now, so I’m working to look for holes in our system and opportunities for improvement. We’re only three years old, but a lot has happened within three years. I didn’t plan to start this organization; this organization chose me! Also, there’s a lot of division when it comes to non-white space. Non-white people need to get to know each other’s stories: the native story, the Asian-American story, etc. We live in a system designed to divide and conquer; the marginalized are fighting each other because no one wants to be at the bottom of the spectrum. So, wherever we see gaps, Be the Bridge is gonna create those things.
As you can see, Latasha Morrison is starting conversations that are going to revolutionize society, and she’s teaching us how to do so, too! Pre-order Latasha’s book Be the Bridge today to find out how! You’ll be glad you did.
Briana Rooke realizes the impact that media have on their audiences, particularly people in the audiences who find themselves underrepresented in society, and she seeks to analyze media in a way that lets those voices be heard. When she’s not interning at Hope for Women or scrutinizing media, Briana enjoys reading classic books like Les Miserables, drinking blueberry tea, and cuddling with her black cat, Selina. She believes that someday stories will truly save the world.