The killing of George Floyd invites knee-jerk responses. Words fall short and talk is cheap. It’s easy to sound glib or opportunistic. Silence is safer. But, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Like it or not, we must speak out against George Floyd’s ugly, outrageous murder. Like it or not, we have to face the underlying prejudice that made it possible.
Black lives matter. That’s not an academic issue. It’s a matter of life and death. Racism kills. Institutional racism thinks it can get away with murder. All too often, it does.
That’s not who we’re supposed to be in this country. Diversity is the very fabric of the American experiment. When that fabric tears, people of color die. The cold-blooded murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis is only the most recent example. But the body count is long. And it goes back for centuries.
In 1619, the first African slaves were brought to America’s shores. Violence against their descendants has continued ever since, although it’s taken many forms. Laws have changed, but many white hearts and minds haven’t. Despite the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, and the Voting Rights acting of 1964, white injustice against the African-American community is not a thing of the past.
Outrage is an understandable response to systemic injustice. But answering violence with violence is a futile tactic—and one that we must reject. Rioting, looting and destruction won’t change minds and hearts. Non-violent action in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is the only thing that can.
The time has come to take a stand for peace and justice. But time is short, and history is unforgiving. Words aren’t enough. Belief in diversity, equality and civil liberty isn’t enough. We have to act—and act now. If we hesitate and fail to act, the alternative is too horrible to contemplate.
Are we going to have a civilization or a civil war? That’s not hyperbole. That’s what’s at stake. The value of human diversity is all that holds our nation together. And it’s what we stand for at Embracing Our Differences.
We can do better. We need to speak out against this brutality, persecution, and sickening injustice. We cannot remain silent.