Who are we Americans?

As we look back over the events of the past two weeks people are asking: What went wrong in America? Was mass protest, anger, grief, demands for change all the result of Minneapolis police who made a string of gravely wrong judgments in the use of force, leaving an unarmed Black man dead, and for the world to witness? Or is this a boil-over of what’s been simmering for decades? Centuries? Longer? For us to fully comprehend the magnitude of American injustice, one must look far beyond a handful of high-profile police brutalities and murders on our streets.

What is in our attitudes and belief systems that causes those in power to refuse systemic change? How deep is the institutional racism we are seeing in law enforcement rooted? Is this about the same power exerted over an entire class of people as it was in times of slavery? Reconstruction? Segregation and Jim Crow? All the years since Civil Rights?

To what end will we continue to hold these powers in our grasps on the streets, in the workplace, schools, and every sector of society? What binds us to these values of domination? Are we insecure? Fearful of seeing historically disenfranchised citizens get ahead, succeed, enjoy a just slice of the pie? What entitles the privileged to willfully take more, and more, and more while dismissing racial disparity?

How will true leadership level the playing field? Move us to a just way of distributing wealth and power, respect and tolerance? Who is responsible for making these changes? The governing bodies we elect? Our corporate and business leaders? Role models, educators, parents, public servants, athletes, celebrities? Must we sit and wait for a charismatic leader to come along and exorcise from us our selfish greed, our insecurity, our apathy, our envy?

Who among us with open eyes and heart look around to see what’s going on? Who will have the courage and patience to listen to our neighbors with a fresh view of humanity? Which of us will take yet another opportunity to look at who we are? The questions are numerous, and so it is time to ask them of ourselves and look in the mirror and decide who we are as a people, a nation.