As I heed the news from recent days, my heart grieves.
I grieve over the death of a black man due to the excessive force of a bad policeman.
I grieve over the death of a black jogger because white neighbors assumed he was a burglar.
I grieve over a birdwatcher who was falsely and maliciously accused of threatening a white woman in Central Park.
I grieve over the racism that still plagues our nation so that some of our citizens are treated unjustly because of the color of their skin.
I also grieve over the destruction of property and fires and looting across our country.
I grieve for business owners who were already struggling because of the shutdowns from COVID-19 and now have to deal with property damage and loss of property.
I grieve over the evidence that some of the fires and damage were caused by White Supremacist groups who seek to deepen racial prejudice.
I grieve that riots and property damage divert our attention and enable us to ignore the prevailing issues of racism that must be faced and resolved.
I grieve that we may get more upset over riots than we do over the continuing problem of racism.
I grieve that White Supremacist organizations try to infiltrate our military and our law enforcement agencies.
I grieve for many, many good law enforcement officers who strive to do their job well.
I grieve that it is so difficult for us as a nation to come together across political divides and work together toward solutions.
At a news conference on Friday night organized by the African American Christian Clergy Coalition of Phoenix, AZ, the Rev. Reginald D. Walton spoke to this matter of grieving: “A lot of anger that we are seeing is from a place of grief. We must hold space for people to grieve. We must hold space for people to keep vigil and talk about their feelings because what you see is an expression of rage that has bubbled over because talking has been unheard.”
As I grieve, I am reminded of what French historian Alexis de Tocqueville said about our nation in 1835: “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
Sadly, de Tocqueville overlooked the evil of slavery when he wrote those words. The evil he overlooked resulted in a war that divided our nation, followed by Jim Crow laws and ongoing problems from racism. May we stop overlooking the evil of racism in our nation. As we strive for greatness in our country, let us focus our attention on working for what is good and right and just and fair for all of our citizens.