We are ones who have been sent, declares an old African proverb. This idea has grown out of the notion that while Africans came to this land as slaves, those who survived can lay claim to the notion that there is a special destiny for them to fulfill. Since they and we have survived so much in this land, there is a clear message that there is a purpose to be fulfilled. The task of all prior generations has been to seek to understand that purpose and to heed its call. All generations to come will have the same task until complete liberation occurs.
Last week’s events make us wonder if liberation will ever come. One African-American man killed because he had the audacity to carry a gun, another one killed while attempting to comply with a law enforcer’s request and then five police officers killed because they had on the uniform and happened to be white. And one unknown man was found hanging in a tree in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park. Though the police were quick to call it a suicide, none of us believe that the man climbed up a tree and tied a rope around his neck in order to hang himself. The FBI is rightfully investigating this incident as the Justice Department is looking into the police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” We are making rapid progress toward perishing together. But we have to continue seeking to find the place inside of ourselves that will not say yes to the loud destructive voices that seem to be drowning out all others. The voices of the fear practitioners are loud and clear but they cannot be allowed to have the last word.
At the end of the day, there have to be many of us who stand and speak as Sojourner Truth did to Frederick Douglass during the era of slavery about the fact that since God was not dead, there was still a reason to have hope and to stay in the struggle for freedom. That same spirit has to be resurrected in our midst during this fraught time. The spirit that says there is more to the story than fear and hatred.
The lobbyist for the NRA and the hatemongers cannot be allowed to dictate what our future will be. We cannot have police officers continuously killing African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans or white people who are in no way causing them a threat. We cannot allow the culture of fear to inundate the enforcers of the laws to the point that they are not able to function in a sensible and reasonable manner.
We cannot allow the relationships between the police and the community to degenerate to a place that makes it seem justifiable to shoot innocent police officers who are out trying to do their jobs. The irony is that the Dallas Police Department has made many great strides over the past few years and that those officers should be the target of rage and revenge is very unsettling. However, we know that it is often not the ones who are the most guilty that receive the greatest punishment.
Killing people is not acceptable. There is no defensible justification that can be made for murder. No one has a right to take another person’s life. As a nation we need to make up our minds about whether we think that some have the right to kill others or not. We need to take a stand for life. Many claim to have a faith perspective that does not allow for killing one another. Though we have used that same faith to justify our propensity for violence and killing. The choice is ours, find peace or perish.
This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.