Take action to push against racism, be inclusive

Daniel Gordon and Daniel Gordon

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” On some days the length of that arc weighs especially heavily on our hearts – days like June 17, when nine people were murdered in a centuries-old house of worship – steeped in the history of civil rights – because of the color of their skin, right before Juneteenth, which commemorates the last slaves’ emancipation.

Our nation still turns a blind eye to racism, only truly stirring – briefly, and usually without substantive action – after acts of overt violence.

How many more of these acts of terrorism – and that’s exactly what they are – will we as a people tolerate?

We haven’t had an incident like Charleston in Bowling Green. I hope we never will.

But many of us have experienced racism, sexism, ageism, classism, religious discrimination, or other forms of prejudice, and a full accounting of our local history must reckon with the fact that our area once had significant Ku Klux Klan activity.

That’s not the best of Bowling Green.

What is the best of Bowling Green is what I saw this past Monday, when I joined nearly 150 other citizens to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Charleston.

We expressed grief, anger, and compassion and a few of us voiced hard truths and tough questions.

We came together across gender, racial, age and socioeconomic lines to affirm that we won’t be neutral in the face of hatred and that we’ll fight for social justice here in our town.

Our failure to abolish racism is the reason some locals derided the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

These critics retorted that all lives matter – as if we don’t know that.

But recognizing and fighting against racism doesn’t undervalue non-black lives.

The point is we’re focusing on these lives because they’re the ones most acutely devalued by our system.

This isn’t up for debate. People of color are treated differently – in education, housing, law enforcement, you name it.

When someone says black lives matter, all we should say is, “Yes!”

Every step we take to bring us closer together will help redeem the sins of our community’s past and provide for a culture in which all citizens, no matter our perceived differences, feel equally safe and valued – a culture of true affirmation, not merely tolerance.

We’re told history unfolds through acts of a handful of individuals – your Lincolns and Gandhis.

But this is mostly wrong, and it’s damaging to our sense of agency and efficacy, our sense of what is possible through our taking action.

True change comes from the people. Our history is a rich, largely untold story woven by countless acts of courage across generations.

The power of the civil rights movement was in people across the nation deciding that what King called “the fierce urgency of now” meant believing in themselves and their ability to make change and taking action – not waiting for someone else to show up.

If I know anything from serving in government, it’s that change is up to us.

The world will only be as good as we make it.

Time spent wishing things were better is time better spent acting to change the way things are.

People across our nation are suffering from intense spiritual and physical pain that many of us will never encounter.

These aren’t abstract issues, and they won’t go away if we ignore them.

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel to help shorten the moral arc of the universe. Let’s get marching.