As a nation, we must not ‘lose our way again’

Long awaited by many, President Obama delivered a resounding call to action against racial oppression and violence in Charleston on Friday.

President Barack Obama gave the resounding statements on racism and racial oppression in America many have desired from him as the nation’s first African American leader in a eulogy for Reverend and South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney in Charleston Friday.

In his half-hour long sermon, Obama directly addressed issues of race in a manner unprecedented in public statements since he took office in 2009. He discussed Rev. Pinckney’s work fighting for justice, always returning to the idea that God’s grace inspired Pinckney, and has been the underlying force in the overwhelmingly positive and introspective response to the killings of nine black congregants in Bible study at the black Emanuel AME Church last week.

Taking down the Confederate flag from our public memorials is simply, he said, “an acknowledgement that the cause for which (Confederate soldiers) fought, the cause of slavery, was wrong.”

His statements discussed the flag as “a symbol of systemic oppression and racial subjugation,” the removal of which is “a modest and meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds.”

“By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace,” Obama continued. “But I don’t think God wants us to stop there.”

In honor of Reverend Pinckney and in the spirit of President Obama’s words, we must press forward in our fight for equality, fair treatment, and the universal understanding of the fundamental truth that Black Lives Matter.

“As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us,” Obama said, “for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind.”

We have been blind to the pain caused by the continued use of a flag that symbolizes racial hatred and violence, and we have begun to realize our blindness to that fact. But it is not enough.

We must deeply investigate our criminal justice system that so blithely takes away the freedom of black and brown people and assaults the sanctity of black and brown bodies. We must stand up and protest as police violence steals away the lives of men, women, and children on our streets every single day.

“Perhaps,” Obama said, the perpetual assault on black lives culminating in last week’s massacre “softens hearts to those lost young men.”

We must address continued discrimination in our society, and guard “not just against racial slurs” but also against subconscious biases that cause people “to call Johnny back for a job interview, but not Jamal.”

“By making the moral choice to change,” Obama said before leading the congregants in attendance in a rousing chorus of Amazing Grace, “we express God’s grace.”

When he began to sing, joined by a surprised audience and band, he had just said the words our country has needed to hear from its president for over 150 years. I cried.

“It would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe,” Obama said, “if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again.”

He concluded with a call for God to shine his grace down on our United States of America. Wherever that grace comes from, we need it now more than ever. To truly grow from these events, we must keep that grace within us as a reminder never to be silent, never to be complacent, and never to be complicit again.

That’s the only way we can begin to change and move our nation forward.

Zac Bears can reached at (Photo courtesy of Pete Souza/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)


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