“Anybody know what this place is? This is Gettysburg. This is where they fought the Battle of Gettysburg. Fifty thousand men died right here on this field, fightin’ the same fight that we’re still fightin’ amongst ourselves today.
This green field right here was painted red, bubblin’ with the blood of young boys, smoke and hot lead pourin’ right through their bodies. Listen to their souls, men:
‘I killed my brother with malice in my heart. Hatred destroyed my family.’
You listen. And you take a lesson from the dead. If we don’t come together, right now, on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed — just like they were. I don’t care if you like each other or not. But you will respect each other. And maybe — I don’t know — maybe we’ll learn to play this game like men.” – “Remember the Titans,” Gettysburg Speech by Coach Herman Boone
In light of the senseless violence and unnecessary deaths this past week across our nation with the brutal, horrific, fatal shootings of three black men and five white police officers, I am compelled to use my voice in this month’s article to make a personal plea. I am pleading for us all to unite, listen, hear and understand each other. Have constructive conversations and take action to move our country forward together.
Because I live in the Dallas, TX, area, recent tragic events have brought racism to the forefront of not only my conscious, but also the conscious of our community. There is no hiding from it. No placing your head in the sand. The blinders have been ripped off.
A Black man shot and killed five White police officers and wounded nine more in Dallas during a peaceful protest surrounding the recent senseless deaths of three Black men by police officers in Baton Rouge, LA and Falcon Heights, MN and New York. It was reported by the Dallas Police Chief that during police negotiations the black gunman expressed he was upset about Black Lives Matter, recent police shootings and wanted to kill white people, specifically white officers. An investigation is ongoing to discover more about the gunman, his motives and his mental state. My point in repeating those comments here is to paint the tragic picture of the hostile emotions and heightened tensions being felt right now across this nation related to race.
When thinking about recent events, one of the best scenes from the movie Remember the Titans where the character Coach Herman Boone gives the dramatic speech above comes to mind. What strikes me is the fact that we are “still” in 2016 having the same civil rights and divisive struggle that was fought during the Civil War at Gettysburg in 1863 and in the 1960’s during the desegregation events from this film.
Recent events have also caused some to people find their voice, but sadly, not all are using them in a constructive and productive manner. They may not be holding a gun, but they are using their words as a weapon to further divide and spread fear causing greater distrust. Some have gone on rants openly shouting from the mountain tops, while others spew hatred by passive aggressively taking shots at one another through social media showing us the cowardly, ugly side of hate. It’s as if there has been no change, no forward movement. Distrust, disrespect and violence have brought us to this same place of Black versus White yet again.
That’s why I urge us to take note of character Coach Boone’s words. “Take a lesson from the dead. If we don’t come together, right now, on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed — just like they were. I don’t care if you like each other or not. But you will respect each other.”
To respect one another, is that not a big part of what this boils down to?
As people and as a nation we mourn the deaths of all lives, and recognize the importance of all lives, but let’s not lose perspective of the fact that the Black Lives Matter movement goes deeper than that. It advocates for the dignity, justice and respect of Black people.
The Black Lives Matter movement began in 2012 with the creation of #BlackLivesMatter after George Zimmerman was acquitted for fatally shooting a 17-year-old black youth, Trayvon Martin. The movement has become a call to action and a response to the anti-Black racism that permeates society. It is a movement that discusses and brings light to ways in which Black lives are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity.
As a nation we must acknowledge that racism and injustice still exist. It is staring us in the face. How can you not see It? We must rip off the blinders and do something about it together. Here in Dallas as we grieve, the DFW metroplex as a whole has come together to begin addressing the issue. We have started by having hard, but constructive, collective conversations across the metroplex to better understand racism, its effects, and how we can come together out of respect for our differences. I attended one such event last night. But, we need more than just our city to respond. We need our nation, political and community leaders to respond and unite.
“Unity doesn’t mean we always look the same, but in the midst of our diversity, we unite together in purpose.” – Pastor Matt Anderson
We did not arrive at our current state overnight and we are not going to solve our issues overnight, but I believe we can all respect each other while holding each other accountable over time. It starts by recognizing how our different experiences now and throughout history have shaped us. Let’s choose to listen, empathize, and use our words constructively for good. If we don’t, we will forever be a nation divided. We will implode in a manner from which we cannot return.
Black and White, it’s not an either/or solution. It’s both. Together we can make a difference.
Not to leave anyone out, as humankind, we all have an opportunity as a collective to rise to our best in light of recent tragedies.
We can no longer stand on the sidelines of social injustice, we must each accept personal responsibility. I urge each of us to start at home, in our churches, and in our communities by offering compassion, patience, respect and most importantly love for one another as we speak and act together in the coming days, weeks and months.
There will be teachable moments that happen every day with our youth, family, friends, co-workers and neighbors where rather than be quick to judge, we can choose to extend grace and understanding. Please pray, listen and consider walking in each other’s shoes.
Let’s turn down the temperature in our voices and turn up our actions and willingness to listen. Together, let’s find solutions to move this nation past what has already occurred. We can’t change the past, but we can all choose to make a difference in our tomorrow and our future.