Don't Stand By and Let Hateful Rhetoric Divide America
Published in the Detroit Free Press - Opinion on October 31, 2018
As our nation continues to mourn the lives that were taken in the name of hate and from us in Pittsburgh, Louisville and beyond, we also stand with those who have been wounded or left behind questioning how such evil could tear into the fabric our communities again. The journey of mourning will continue in the days, weeks, months and years to come.
We cannot, and shall not, forget the victims of hate violence. Our hearts are wounded today over the senseless murders of 11 men and women in Pittsburgh, who had come to a sacred space on a day of worship, and perished for the faith that sustained them, throughout their lives.
But remembering the victims and survivors of hate violence is the most basic thing we can do. Preventing such tragedies in the future however will require us to stand up, speak out and take action.
First, we must safeguard and protect our civil rights, including the inalienable right to practice one’s religious faith without fear of persecution or retaliation. Those civil rights also require us to exercise our other First Amendment rights – to fight discrimination, in all its forms and to assemble to have our concerns addressed. Just as communities around the country gathered in the shimmering candlelight, so must we stand whenever and wherever discrimination and hate appear.
Second, we must be reminded, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” We must confront the evil, the violence – which we all condemn – not with hate in our hearts, but with love. This is our responsibility, not just for our society, but for our children. We must remind them, as we remind ourselves, racism, anti-semitism, xenophobia, sexism and homophobia have no place in our minds or our hearts.
Thirdly, and most importantly, we cannot allow the roiling, demeaning rhetoric we have been experiencing intimidate us or separate us. We must stand up, speak out and take action not only against the physical violence, but the spiritual violence of hate and discrimination. Regardless of religious beliefs, race, color, ethnicity or gender identity or sexual orientation: Do not stay quiet. Do not give up. It is time for the exhausted majority in our country to find our voices again and take them back from those who straddle the margins and aim to control our public discourse. Be upstanders. Come together and call hate and discrimination out for what it is.
We have the power to stop the rhetoric of hate that feeds the violence. It is time we all get off the sidelines and stop it. We have so much in common as Americans. Let us work towards the American promise, rather than allow the extremes on both ends of the political divide to buffet us against each other. Let us join in our common values and reject hate and discrimination together, as “one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”