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George Jackson: We can still build a beloved community

The tensions on race relations in America were palpable in 2014. The scene from the streets of Ferguson, Missouri looked like a flashback to civil rights protest in Mississippi in 1964. Thousands of protesters in the streets of New York City were reminiscent of the long march from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama, in 1965.

In a time of technological advancement and scientific breakthrough there were moments in 2014 that almost pulled our nation to the edge of regression. The verdict in the killing of Trayvon Martin, the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown shooting, the tragic death of Eric Garner in Staten Island and the killing of 12 year old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, are just a few in a series of too many incidents, of the atrocities of man’s inhumanity to his fellowman.

We must find a solution to this inherent, seemingly perpetual tension. Violence is not a sustainable answer. Gun violence against police like the tragic shooting of two NYPD patrol officers in Brooklyn, will never achieve justice. In May 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The reason I can’t follow the eye for an eye philosophy is that it ends up leaving everyone blind. Somebody must have some sense and somebody must have religion.” We cannot shoot our way to equality or bomb our way to justice, it’s just too costly and too painful a way to achieve social change at a critical time like this.

Maybe we can try an old approach… reconciliation? How about something really radical… love? Jesus Christ addressed both dynamics in Matthew 22:37-40; “Love the Lord your GOD with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself; All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

It’s not too late for America. We are still the greatest hope for the entire world. We can still defeat the Triple Evils of poverty, racism and violence by building a Beloved Community. Not a place of sentimental love but an atmosphere of unity, peace and understanding. Speaking at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina on April 15, 1960, Dr. King said, “There is another element that must be present in our struggle that then makes our resistance and nonviolence truly meaningful. That element is reconciliation. Our ultimate end must be the creation of the beloved community.”

We must start today at ground zero. In our individual homes we must set the precedent of nonviolence towards our children our spouse and our extended family. We must set the standard of beloved community on our block and in our neighborhoods. Why do we take to the streets in mass when the police use deadly force against a citizen, but look the other way and only say “What a shame” when the neighbor’s son kill’s the neighbor’s son? That’s a double standard. All lives matter no matter who takes them. Why do we involuntarily participate in our own genocide? It’s time for a radical paradigm shift. It’s time to reconcile our communities.

“Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” — MLK Jr.

Dr. George B. Jackson is chair of MLK-SAC

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