My city is in turmoil as I write this. Another man died at the hands of a police officer; there are multiple versions of what really happened that night circulating, and I don’t know which version or combination of versions is true, but I do know that protests and riots and chaos have ensued. I do know that thousands of more lives have been put in danger because of these violent responses. I see friends about whom I care deeply marking themselves as “safe” on Facebook, and I can only think about how thankful I am that they are okay and how heartbroken I am that there was a chance they wouldn’t be.
My mind naturally goes to what we can do to protect ourselves, to guard our hearts in the face of tragedy and fear. It’s far too easy to start arguing about black vs. blue vs. all lives matter. How simple would it be to give in to hate! How natural to allow fear to rule the day, but I think we as humans and we as a city were made to be more than that. I believe that we can not only end the craziness but also move forward into peace.
I could make a list of how I think we can do these things, but it really just boils down to one main idea: we have to refuse.
We have to refuse to argue over how we word things and examine instead the heart behind our words. Do black lives matter? Yes. Do blue lives matter? Yes. Do all lives matter? Yes. Should we sit around debating which is the most relevant on social media rather than living like all of those things are true? No. Words are important because, eventually, our words will reflect what’s in our hearts, but actions are what really count. We can say all the profound things in the world, but if we’re only talking then we’re never going to make it anywhere.
We have to refuse to look at our brothers and sisters and see a skin color. We have to refuse to be the person who never looks deeper than another person’s skin. I’ve seen so many articles being tossed around today validating this stereotype and “proving” whichever viewpoint is most convenient for the sharer and showing statistically that any given individual is right, and I really feel that this isn’t helping anyone. We need to stop pointing fingers and looking for scapegoats and start seeing those we come in contact with as brothers and sisters, as valuable members of humanity.
We have to refuse to value our own lives above those of others. The whole “I’m going to do harm to you before you can do harm to me” mentality is only causing this and other similar situations to escalate. When did we stop loving our neighbors as we love ourselves? Or maybe the deeper question is when did we stop see everyone around us as our neighbors? When did we start limiting who we consider to be our neighbors?
We have to refuse to allow others to fuel fear and plant hatred in our hearts, in our homes, and in our communities. These things will only tear us down from the inside out.
What happened here in Charlotte this week was and still is a grave tragedy, and to be angry over the lives lost is natural. It’s what we do with that anger that will determine the ending to the story. Some are using their anger to create more hate and further damage, but, if we do just one thing differently, we’ll start ripples of hope and healing that will grow and expand and turn our Queen City around. We can refuse.