Last week’s “Gathering for Racial Unity” at First Presbyterian Church of Waco, put together in response to an increasingly venomous racial divide nationwide symbolized by the violence in Charlottesville, proved a thoughtful, warmly reassuring affair, complete with testimonials from folks on all spots of the political, religious and racial spectrum. Organizer Berkeley Anderson, the Rev. Leslie King and church officials rate our deepest thanks for its execution.
Yet there was hard truth in the words of Peaches Henry, president of the Waco NAACP, when she delivered the evening’s final remarks: “When I was asked to participate in this event, I almost said no. I was hesitant because I am weary of attending these flash-point racial-unity events where we come together, comfort each other, hold hands, sing ‘We Shall Overcome’ and go our separate ways without effecting any real change.”
While this newspaper has occasionally had sharp disagreements with Henry, her words do issue a worthy challenge to our community. It’s easy for people of different colors, faiths and backgrounds to assemble in a hallowed hall and speak feel-good words designed to capture a noble sentiment that, once we’re dismissed, ceases to figure in mind and deed. Happens all the time.
Certainly, no one can doubt the words of attorney Wesley Lloyd, president of the McLennan County Republican Club and a resolute conservative in his tenets and principles, when he spoke about being the white father of a black son: “Raising a black child will make it very obvious that racism still exists in this country. It’s in degrees varying from unintentional or oblivious to disgustingly blatant.”
In offering a prescription for fighting racism, Lloyd suggested one some of his fellow conservatives dismiss: “First, we must acknowledge that racism still exists in everyday life and that it is a problem, always. That means stop being dismissive and acting as though persons of color have no reason to be angry. Stop. When you dismiss their perspective, I think they are justified in becoming angrier because it angers me.”
Again, powerful words. But such words demand far more from us all. It means thinking twice about how some of us on the right end of the political spectrum excuse, if not overt racism, then certainly reckless, insensitive racial mob talk by candidates and politicians. By the same token, those on the left end of the spectrum should think hard before readily playing the all-too-convenient race card in matters of political disagreement.
The striking down of Texas’ sanctuary cities law by a federal judge Wednesday is yet another example of where all should have searched for ways to ensure this law was not discriminatory. We didn’t. Our state lawmakers put language in the bill forbidding racially discriminatory actions, yet structured the legislation to make it all too easy for police to racially profile Hispanics about immigration status during traffic stops.
Words are powerful, inspiring, thought-provoking but ultimately cheap. How those at the pulpit and in the pews actually meet the challenge will determine whether Dr. Henry’s original hesitation about racial-unity events was justified.