I have been out with the protesters, marched with them, prayed with them on street corners, and at what’s left of the heart-wrenching auction block that once “sold” enslaved people in Fredericksburg. I’ve participated in the very moving almost 9 minute silent hand raising demonstration a few times, representing the mind-blowing amount of time that George Floyd’s neck was knelt on while he pleaded for his life. If that doesn’t give you perspective perhaps you’d better check your pulse. These protests may sound scary to you, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
From my view these protesters are very genuine, almost all young 20 or 30 somethings, who are sincerely desperate to see change come to our nation when it comes to race. The ones that I have seen, which I believe are the vast majority nationwide in almost every city and town across America, are completely peaceful, and passionate to affect some kind of change with their voices. They not only oppose but condemn the violence that has broken out, and see it as a distraction that is co-opting this very critical cause. They want everyone to know that, but in all these little local places, the huge cities with often roving groups of vandals, are drowning them out. (And the media is giving the violence most of the press.)
I applaud them for their passion and tenacity; for learning how to meet with the police, to take advantage of our incredible first amendment right of free speech and assembly. I also applaud the local police and law-enforcement that are predominantly trying to do their best to allow these kids the use of their freedom, and in fact stand with them in many cases. It’s been beautiful to watch. Admittedly, there’s some fear on both parts, so there’s a learning curve.
Then there are those who are literally trying to destroy our nation from the inside who do not want to see things done peacefully. They do not want the cause of eliminating racism to be won. They are happy with the divisions and the way in which it could make our nation fall from the inside. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
My heart aches from the deliberate chaos they are creating and leading other unwitting participants into, and breaks for the peaceful protesters who are so desperately trying to do the right thing.
And of course even more than that, my heart is crushed for the hidden devastating racial injustices that have lingered for too long. It’s time for us to understand, and make change one heart at a time. Even if you don’t feel it or see it, consider it. Listen; don’t dismiss it. It’s really not all about police brutality – that’s probably one tiny percentage – it’s much deeper than that. If we’re not open to trying to understand what still runs deeply under the surface, faced daily by millions of those in the Black community, upstanding, contributing citizens who are accused, threatened, and treated with suspicion for no reason other than their skin color, we’ll never be able to overcome this blight.
It’s not about one race being better than the other in either direction; it’s not someone else’s “turn now”. It’s about everyone being seen and treated as the human race. Period.
I think local leaders, especially spiritual leaders, have an obligation to take the lead in repentance and understanding and shepherd our nation along.
Leaders, find your voice.
We – all Americans – need to unite and locks arms at this critical, defining hour, condemning the violence and standing with the peaceful protestors. The eyes of the world are on us, and totalitarian regimes like China are mocking us. And the anarchists who are acting in destructive ways give them opportunity to slander us.
Ironically, we’ve just seen the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in China. For those who are too young to remember, it may be helpful to search that history and understand in comparison what an incredibly amazing country we have in the United States.
That oppressive Chinese Government can’t possibly understand our First Amendment rights – a communist regime which denies that the Tiananmen Square massacre ever even happened, where they shot or literally rolled over thousands of protesters with military tanks.
So, I am so grateful for the United States of America. For our wise Constitution. For our superb freedoms. You can call me whatever you want. But Americans, can we stand together shoulder to shoulder, and not mock our own selves? We can overcome this flashpoint in history like we have in the past, but not if we are our own worst enemy.
Foundationally we must recognize the beyond-important values that we are fighting for. It’s not for Democrats or Republicans. It’s not for “right” or “left”, or anywhere in between – labels that in the critical scheme of things right now just do more to divide us than heal. It’s for the core of what we are. We have a lot of differences. A lot of disagreements. But fundamentally we all want a nation that gives us the ability to do and live like we now just take for granted. We’ve become bloated and selfish with so much “stuff”…Do we realize how blessed we are? If not, we may lose it.
It’s time to forget our labels. Reach beyond our partisanship. Forget the blame game and animosity. Pray, and allow ourselves to be uncomfortable and challenged. Priests, Pastors, Rabbis, Spiritual leaders and Community Civic leaders alike; let’s show these destroyers that we can make a change, from the grass roots up, listening to one another instead of denying or blaming. We have the tools if we unify in this human flashpoint that has been spotlighted in this moment in time.
Love your brother.
Pipe dream? Maybe. But, by God, I’m not going down without a spiritual fight for the heart of our nation; and I think God hears us and agrees.
Katie Mahoney is an Irish-American Washington based human rights activist