We are in troubling times in America right now. The level of violent hatred the last few days is truly remarkable. We must not forget what has been taken place in the recent past including the violence in Parkland and Orlando, FL, Las Vegas, etc. And coupled now with that is the increasing sense that people with racist and intolerant views are acting on their beliefs. It is truly sad and unprecedented.
I just returned from a conference at the Alliance for Peacebuilding in DC. And someone commented that Americans must recognize that we as a country are dealing with the same forms and types of violence and aggression as many parts of the world. Is America still a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere? The work that many of my colleagues do in bring about peace and create stability overseas is now being directed here at home. I’m glad for that. I have many colleagues who are working to advance “red-blue” dialogue, but it’s hard work and we need to take the long view. (One group is Hands Across the Hills, which I recommend everyone read about). We must look for solutions that are long term and sustainable. Dialogue and awareness raising, though critical, are not as important as structural change in systems of oppression (for both marginalized blacks and Latinos, as well as poor whites in Appalachia). I believe education continues to be the answer, but there is much structural change that needs to take place to accomplish that. And education is directly impacted by social, economic and political conditions. We have much to do. And we need to work together as allies, even at times with those we might not be completely on the same page as. Some of my colleagues advocate a more radical approach, but I still think working in the middle spaces can accomplish much.
In the end, I have hope and believe that we can achieve a society that is more tolerant and peaceful than today. But we must recognize that peace is a process, not an ends. Peace will never be “achieved” in the sense that we are done. It will always demand creativity and tenacity from all of us.