Blog Entry Narrative Change, Health & Healing

"Fracture Critical": Strategic Destiny Dispatch Vol. III. Xll.

by Rev. Dr. Alfonso Wyatt

By Rev. Dr. Alfonso Wyatt, Founder, Strategic Destiny: Designing Futures Through Faith & Facts

I was on the West Coast the day after the election to present a self-designed Triumph Over Tragedy community-healing forum. After sleeping for an hour or two, I found myself clear-eyed at 2 AM. I turned on the TV in the hopes of being lulled back to sleep. While watching one of my favorite guilty pleasures, "Engineering Disasters", I heard this new term, fracture critical, as it related to the collapse of an 80 year-old bridge. Here is the story: An oversized truck traveling in the wrong lane struck an overhead support beam, causing a 400 foot section of the bridge to collapse into the Mississippi River. In order to understand the following lesson, I offer you a definition of fracture critical provided by the Federal Highway Administration:

A “fracture critical” bridge is defined as a steel member in tension, or with a tension element, whose failure would probably cause a portion of, or the entire bridge, to collapse.

Half of America elected a man who many think is unfit for office to rule over the other half of America. So what does this all have to do with the concept of fracture critical and an old bridge? 

There are fracture critical “tension” points on the bridge of social, political and economic justice, that over time, have been weakened. The condition of the “freedom bridge” traveled by ostracized people calls for immediate inspection and repair. If we do not make repairs, the bridge that led to equality could collapse. Please note it is more expensive to rebuild than it is to repair—that is why we do not have the luxury to wait, hate, or endlessly debate.

With this foundational thought firmly established, here are some fracture critical tension areas in need of immediate attention and remedy.

  • Fracture Critical Leadership—Today’s societal impediments, like yesterday’s impediments, are calling for leaders with voices that speak hope, give insight, and provide clarity. We need voices that can discern the difference between strategy (when you have a plan) and tactics (when there is no plan—Thanks Chris Lawrence for this jewel). We do not need leaders of any age or agenda with voices that are lost in the din caused by spewing loud empty words, offering bankrupt ideas, or voices presenting self-serving dictums that increase inflammation, yet sadly lack information. Anger without purpose/direction or meaningful follow-up is a waste of energy at best.
  • Fracture Critical Generation Gap—I have lived long enough to see that younger and older generations throughout time have looked at each other with a cynical eye. It is important to get beyond this predictable place of difference (In the 60’s called The Generation Gap, when youth vowed not to trust anyone over 30) if something great is to happen. Synergistically speaking, the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts if generations work together, learn together, and share together.
  • Fracture Critical Class Divide—This historical rift goes back to house/field plantation worker (I am being polite) days, giving birth to: light skin vs. dark skin, straight hair vs. nappy hair, haves vs. have nots. This system was set up by the “ruling plantation aristocracy” and enforced by slave masters who knew divide and conquer was in their best interests. This socioeconomic divide can no longer be ignored, or tolerated through misinformed concepts of noblesse oblige/entitlement, ignorance, or classic class disdain. There will be a growing need for smart money to flow from Black and brown bourgeoisie pockets to address the needs of brothers and sisters left behind in poverty, hopelessness and despair. When spiders unite, they can tie up a lion.
  • Fracture Critical Education System—Educators and the public alike may think the main education fight is charter schools vs. public schools. The real fight is for effective schools that will prepare our young people for the world they will inherit. The impact of globalization, coupled with the need for good paying jobs (largely unfilled), should not be overlooked in a vain attempt to make a charter vs. public school point. The real mission is to end the school-to-prison pipeline by thoughtful “Starve The Beast” coordinated national efforts. We MUST create real education options for our children to get degrees and not push empty rhetoric spoken by people who already have degrees.

The bridge to freedom is groaning. The bridge to upward mobility is creaking. The fracture critical social issues, if not attended to, may cause a crash like the one depicted on "Engineering Disasters". We need inspectors (researchers) who can reliably assess the damage, we need bridge repairers (direct service providers) to fix the damage, and we need spirit/hope (faith community) to encourage workers to keep on keeping on, no matter the local, state, federal or societal tensions.

There was a song sung over 50 years ago while civil rights marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. A phalanx of angry police, wielding head-bashing batons and holding back ferocious attack dogs straining at the leash, waited for the marchers to cross the bridge. The song the protesters sang is the song needed now to lift the spirits of modern day fracture critical bridge inspectors, bridge repairers and bridge travelers alike: “I Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around.” Beloved, the times we are in are not new; with hard work and fervent prayer, we will Make The Bridge Strong Again; we will Triumph Over Tragedy.


Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the foundations of past generations. You will be called the Rebuilder of Broken Walls and the Restorer of Streets Where People Live. Isaiah 58:1

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