The headline recently in the centrist British newspaper The Independent fills the whole front page: "America's Race Hate Nightmare."
Not 1920. Not 1950. Now.
The Americans I encounter here in the UK are as stunned as my friends in the States. Even the Brits want to talk about America for once.
What can we do?
Speak out. Raise your voice. Write your editor. Call in to talk radio. Talk to your children - and your parents. Finally say something, in love, to that family member who vocally hates people of another race or culture. Let the whole world know that you stand against racism and racist violence. Tell the world that violence against black men - and violence against police officers - cannot be countenanced, and that it is time for all people of good conscience to raise their voices and drown out the murmur of hatred. Tell the world that any harm done to any of us is done to us all. As Dr. King said, injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.
Act out. Protest, even if you are a protest of one. Visit the offices of legislators. Find out about local events that build interrace and interfaith community, attend them, take your kids and grandkids to them. Put your church or civic group to work. Above all, do something. Racism is not a black, white, or brown issue. It never was. It is a human issue, pure and simple, and doing nothing is not an option. Dr. King, speaking of his own hard time, said that what would baffle people of the future would not be the actions of the bad people, but the inaction of the good people. Act in such a way that perhaps your grandchildren or great-grandchildren will not have to ask you why black men are still being killed by police-or why racist violence of any kind still dominates the airwaves.
Reach out. Let's say you are one of those good people. You know that every human being is created in the image of God. Your heart aches for the events of this week. But if, like many of us, you have only a handful of friends and acquaintances who don't look exactly like you, think about ways you can extend that good will. Get to know a neighbor who doesn't fit the rest of your neighborhood's profile. Get behind interfaith work. Visit a church or organization made up largely of people who don't look like you. Invite them to your church or organization-as your guests. Better yet, set up a shared event, exchange pastors for a Sunday, or set up ongoing projects your communities jointly can get behind on race and justice. Somehow let the communities outside your own know that you love and support them. What William E. Gladstone said of England makes an easy conversion to our own place and time: The ground beneath our feet is not white soil or black soil, Christian, Muslim, or atheist. It is human soil, and until we all stand together on that ground in that recognition, America's Race Hate Nightmare will continue.
Love each other. Protect each other. Get out there today and be (in Dr. King's words) dangerously unselfish.
This is human soil beneath our feet
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