On Friday, May 13, I found myself on the ABC television show GMA3 being interviewed about my new book, “How To Heal Our Racial Divide: What the Bible Says, and the First Christians Knew, about Racial Reconciliation.”
I was honored to share my heart and hope for America. Toward the end of the interview, I said something like, “I wish my grandmother was alive to see this moment. I’m a kid from the hood, the West Side of San Antonio, Texas, and I’m on GMA3, are you kidding me?”
That was Friday. Then came Saturday, and the news of a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, which we soon learned was racially motivated.
Authorities believe that an 18-year-old white supremacist, enraged with murderous hate, drove to a predominately Black area of Buffalo to barbarically kill Black people. He even livestreamed the atrocity, although the video was quickly taken down by Twitch.
The 18-year-old man, whom I shall not name, is said to have been driven by a conspiracy theory called replacement theory. It’s a racist ideology that teaches that white people are being strategically replaced by people of color in America and in Europe for political aims.
The violence inherent in white supremacy is nothing new to Black people and other people of color. In response to the threat of white supremacy in America, the White House released the National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism, saying “We cannot ignore this threat or wish it away.” The action plan calls on everyone in America — from government, to the private sector, academia and local communities — to take a stand.
While a federal response is important, it’s also important for us to stand up in our local communities, since that is where the wrenching pain of domestic terrorism is felt: Black church members slaughtered during their Bible study in Charleston. A synagogue in Pittsburgh targeted for supporting immigrants. A gunman spraying bullets at an El Paso Walmart to target Latinos.
This hate-filled violence goes against everything our country strives to stand for in the world, and it poses a direct challenge to America’s national security, our democracy and our national unity.
White supremacy is such a threat that Merrick B. Garland, our nation’s attorney general, and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas informed senators that the greatest domestic threat facing the United States comes from what they both called “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists.”
So what can you do?
First, refuse to stick your head in the sand. Your life and voice matter. You can make a difference. Evil grows and spreads like a virus when we intentionally choose to look away. Love is our immunity to this virus.
Second, get equipped. Learn how to heal our racial divide. I wrote an entire book on how to do just this. Let’s raise anti-racist children who love their neighbors as they love themselves (Luke 10:25-37). Our children are the future.
Third, when you see or hear racism, confront it with love and grace just as the apostle Paul confronted the apostle Peter regarding his attitude toward the Gentiles in Antioch (Galatians 2:11-15).
Challenge your political leaders not to use inflammatory racist and xenophobic language, and challenge them to craft policies that enhance human flourishing. Challenge your religious leaders to talk about racism and racial justice and how to heal our racial divide. You have more power to influence than you know. It’s time to use it.
Fourth, parents, if you are paying for your children’s computers and smartphones, they are yours, and you have the right to know what websites your children are on. So much radicalization happens on online. Step up and do your job. Know what your children are doing, even when they’re alone in their room — especially when they’re alone in their room.
The time is now to heal our racial divide. And now is always the time to do the right thing.
The Rev. Dr. Derwin L. Gray is co-founder and lead pastor of Transformation Church in South Carolina and the author of “How To Heal Our Racial Divide: What the Bible Says, and the First Christians Knew, about Racial Reconciliation.”