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It’s Up to Us

Editorial: Students have power to fight for unity in age of racial conflict

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Scrolling through Twitter on an ordinary Thursday night in July, we began to see videos of gunshots in downtown Dallas. Friends and family members who had gone downtown for dinner or a show were suddenly in the epicenter of America’s deadliest day for law enforcement since 9/11. Before it ended, five police officers were dead and a city was in shock.

Dallas joined Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Ferguson and Milwaukee as a hub for dialogue about race relations and law enforcement. #BlackLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter, and #AllLivesMatter quit competing for space on Twitter, and #DallasStrong started trending.

For a brief time, we were united against the act that we could all agree was unjust. A more thoughtful dialogue seemed to spark, even amidst the anger and bitterness after the event. Vicinity heightened sensitivity because people we knew were directly affected.

Senior Melody Jayroe was downtown watching her brother’s band perform the night of the shootings. She said, “It was pretty scary seeing all the helicopters and police cars all over the streets and hearing people yelling and not knowing exactly what was going on. I knew there was a sniper, but I didn’t know why or where he was.”

Stories like Melody’s are jarring reminders that racial issues in America may seem distant, but at any moment can hit close to home. Each unarmed civilian and each police officer who are harmed have equally compelling stories. All are parents, children, brothers, sisters and co-workers. None expecting to be killed suddenly.

We no longer have an excuse to ignore these issues. In fact, we have the opportunity to not only witness but pursue healing in our own city.

Now-retired Dallas Police Department Chief David Brown said it best when talking about Black Lives Matter protesters after the shooting. He said, “Get out of that protest line and put in an application. We’ll put you in your neighborhood and help you resolve some of those problems.” While we should respect groups protesting for their beliefs, we should also take note of the message of Chief Brown—we need to act in a meaningful way. Tweeting a hashtag is not going to cut it.

We are blessed to go to a school with an administration dedicated to facing these issues head on from a Christian worldview. After a series of chapels that featured prominent speakers, students participated in a helpful dialogue about how to think through and act on these issues.

One word that kept coming to the forefront – relationship.

Chapel speaker Angelia Pelham, an African-American business woman and PCA parent, emphasized that through relationships there comes dialogue and understanding. Relationships allow you to ask questions that might be offensive out of context.

The video of a sermon by Pastor Dr. Tony Evans delivered to his diverse congregation immediately following the Dallas shootings was inspiring. His message emphasized that Christians should allow their relationship with Christ to dictate their treatment of tradition, history and culture.

Officer Robert Bernard, another Chapel presenter who is African-American, spoke about the realities of his job. He offered insight on police behavior in order for us to better understand the choices officers make when on duty. Our generation specifically likes to ask “why” and Officer Bernard answered those questions sufficiently, giving us a strong argument to respect police. Why was his talk so persuasive? He humbly told his story and involved students in his presentation to encourage dialogue.

These speakers, wise and Godly, serve as guides in the midst of controversy.

The GRACE Council, formed to promote understanding within our diverse student population, held an open forum to discuss the recent 2016 Presidential Election. Frankly, the stories some students told reflected racist behavior right in our community that is inexcusable and unacceptable, especially at a school devoted to pursuing Christlikeness.

Other stories, however, exhibited unity and peace. All stories shed light on what it’s like to be “someone other than who we are”.

As a whole, the concept of taking on racial issues in America seems daunting, even impossible. Yet we have a solution to daily problems at our fingertips. It was modeled for us at Chapel by a panel of guests who told their stories.

You and I have the power to better ourselves by listening to the stories of our brothers and sisters in Christ, which glorifies God—“for we are all one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28.)

Through compassion, empathy, open ears and the love of Christ, we widen our perspectives and deepen our relationships with people different than us. We are a generation of people who think and act. As Christians, however, notable change will not come about without a commitment to our relationship with Christ. Only through this relationship can we properly view the world around us. So, join GRACE Council, call out your friends when they show prejudice, but also look inward and find where you can better your relationship with Christ and subsequently your relationship with others of all cultures, colors, backgrounds, and differences.

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