Please don’t fail to recognize this vital moment in American history: when our fellow citizens screamed for equality, marched for recognition, and pleaded for justice. Because someday the next generation will ask us: What did you do?
And so today we must ask ourselves: What are we doing? What are we seeing? What does this all mean?
Because the last few years within our country — a continuation of the past hundreds of years — have been socially jarring for a society that considers itself a modernized, technologically advanced, and morally superior nation.
After Trayvon Martin, we thought things would change. But the privileged ignored its countless victims.
After Eric Garner, we assumed the obvious had been revealed: The United States is still saturated with systemic racism and injustice. Surely we would collectively wake up to the reality of inequality and repent of our corporate sins. But the powerful were blinded by excuses, superficial rationalizations, and outright lies.
After Tamir Rice, we believed the last straw had finally been reached. Americans wouldn’t abandon the life of a 12-year-old boy. They wouldn’t give up on an entire segment of Americans. They wouldn’t betray an entire population of family members, relatives, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. But the authorities remained unmoved. The entitled remained unconvinced.
After Michael Brown, we were hopeful that our society and government would be reformed. But even when some policies and legislation changed, the police, authorities, and entitled communities refused to.
After Walter Scott, we thought minds would finally shift. But the unaffected reinforced their own preconceptions and opinions – they remained unsusceptible to hardship. Gilded routines went on uninterrupted.
After Eric Harris, we dared to hope that the advantaged would recognize the disadvantaged, that they would finally admit there was a problem. But the people who needed to open their eyes were too busy to notice, and the ones who did see were too prideful to mature, too defensive to listen, too scared to participate, and too comfortable to risk advocating for those they knew too little about, cared too little about, experienced too little about, and loved too little.
After Freddie Gray, we felt pain, empathy, grief, anger, frustration, sorrow, and a wide range of emotions.
But many people still feel nothing at all. Countless Americans don’t even recognize the names listed above. To them, there is no problem.
After McKinney, we thought the excuses had finally run out. What rationale could possibly be used to explain such brutality? Sadly, the hearts and minds of millions of Americans remained unmoved, apathetic, and passive.
For every name listed here, there are thousands not listed — stories unheard by the masses, not shown on cable news, missed by the mainstream, but painfully known by individuals, families, and communities who have suffered repeatedly, over multiple generations.
And now there’s Charleston. In a church, a prayer group gunned down in cold blood. Our nation goes through the motions one more time, too many times. But will things change? Although hope remains undying, we must admit we aren’t One Nation, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All — because certain Americans have more liberty, more justice, and more freedom than others. Some have none at all.
We are a nation divided.
What did we do? What are we doing? What will we do? We must accept the reality that we’re a country still struggling with systemic oppression, widespread hate, racism, and deeply rooted prejudices.
God, help us to see, hear, feel, empathize, learn, change, and act. And God, please, please, PLEASE help us to forgive, inspire, teach, lead, empower, achieve, and above all else, love our neighbor.