“In Praise of our Common Humanity and Human Flourishing: On Race, Unity, and Virtues”
The problem of race in the American society has paralyzed our psyche to identify and affirm our common humanity. Racial-based ideas and practices have also hindered our common progress and desire to attain human flourishing, both individually and collectively, in society. As a result, some of us promote an incomplete end of human life, that is, the project of unity between the races in society to cure the dilemma of race. Arguably, the predicament of race in our culture is basically a problem of virtue. Race problems clearly indicate our weak desire to pursue higher virtues in life, that is, the divine-inspired human qualities in us that make life in this world more beautiful, relational, and interconnected.
The goal of racial disunity is not reconciliation or racial unity. Progress in race relations in society requires the cultivation and demonstration of moral virtues and ethical qualities that would make reconciliation a potential destination. The end of this life is not to attain racial unity (yet it is important and has its place in a divided country like ours); rather, each one of us has a sacred duty: the humanization of ourselves and the social/political/economic/cultural order, and the promotion of our shared humanity. The question we should be asking is this: what does it mean to be human in society? Or how does one function constructively like a full human being in the world according to the basic principle that everyone in the world or in human history bears the image of God. We should pursue the shared values and qualities (or what I simply call the “divine-inspired universal makers in us”) that will make us functionable and adaptable in any human society or culture in the world.
The project of (racial) unity and (racial) reconciliation has some theological antecedents and foundations. It is intimately connected to the fundamental qualities of being created in the divine image. Those basic divine-inspired human virtues and qualities are crucial to live the good life and to strive for human flourishing in the world.
Without certain virtue ethics, racial reconciliation is just a dream. Instead of trying to work toward racial progress and unity, let us first attempt to cultivate certain necessary virtues that would lead to transformation in the workplace, social relations, human relationships, and social systems and political institutions.
In other words, one should ask what are the moral and ethical virtues that I need to work on to sustain our common humanity and to promote unity, reconciliation, and peace in my community and society. Cultivating certain moral and ethical virtues are important to live fully and constructively as imago dei in the world.