Will Change Come After Condemnation of Racist Terror Attack in Charlottesville

The following post, written by The Rev. Robert A. Franek, is a part of Politicus Policy Discussion, in which writers draw connections between real lives and public policy.

Hope. Healing. Justice. These are the things we need in the aftermath of such grotesque displays of racist hatred and violence. It is gut-wrenching to see white supremacists marching with Confederate and Nazi flags, spewing vile epitaphs, and committing acts of terroristic violence. Condemnation in the strongest and most unequivocal of terms is the only appropriate response. A response Donald J. Trump unsurprisingly failed to give.

But what comes after the condemnation? What comes after all the tweets and articles that say there is no place for racist hatred and violence in this country? What happens when the white supremacists go home and their torch lights go out?

Racism and white privilege are baked into our country’s founding and history. We are still fighting the Civil War as the demonstration in Charlottesville shows, and some Jim Crow era policies may be off the books but they are still pervasive in our culture today.

We may be long past Brown v. Board of Education but schools in largely segregated districts won’t show it. The criminal justice system is rife with racial discrimination. Vote suppression targets people of color. And earnings inequality is still pervasive.

These realities and so many more need to be addressed not only by Congress through policy changes to address the structural and systemic brokenness, but also in our homes, churches, and communities so that we can root out racist teachings and prejudices that are subtle but pervasive. Policy change alone will not fix all the problems. Racial prejudice needs to be deconstructed all the way down to the heart.

It is easy to condemn evil when it comes marching with flag and torch, but much harder to denounce when an unconscious prejudice calls John and not José for a job interview when both are equally qualified for the job.

What will happen after Charlottesville?

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have proved incapable of providing the necessary leadership during such a heinous display of hatred and violence.

Congress is still trying to figure out how to repeal and replace Obamacare, cut taxes for the wealthy, and pass a budget that will cut funding for food for the hungry and give the military a huge increase no one in the Pentagon is asking for. It is not likely they will be ready to address systemic and structural racism, much less lead the country in a national conversation on the topic.

It must begin then with each of us in our homes, in our schools, in our churches, in our workplaces, and among our friends and family. We must continue to change our hearts and minds or what scripture calls repentance. If our condemnations of the hate and bigotry and violence in Charlottesville are to have any meaning beyond this day, they must be backed up with actions and attitudes that show an authentic desire and willingness to continue to make this country the place of equality and freedom we proclaim it to be.

Genesis tells us in the first chapter that each person is created in the image God and thus worthy of infinite dignity. So for all who laud biblical teachings as normative for one’s life, there is no escaping the divinely made equality of every person which is made clear in the Bible’s first chapter.

While we must continue to condemn the white supremacists working in the White House and those this leadership has aroused from the margins of society with renewed legitimacy and fervor, it will be transforming the subtle and structural racism that people of color must face every day of their life that will be the true testament of our condemnation cry.

This country is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. Together may we be a little braver because of the racist terror attack in Charlottesville in fighting for the freedom of all bound by prejudice and hate.