Micah Xavier Johnson planned to carry out an attack involving explosives that would have had “devastating effects throughout our city,” according to Dallas Police Chief David Brown. This morning’s Wall Street Journal reports that Johnson “liked” hate groups on Facebook and was doing combat style drills. But when black men were killed by police in Minnesota and Louisiana, he retaliated with a shooting rampage that left our city grieving and searching for answers.
This morning, the people of Dallas and those who grieve with us have three options.
One: We can respond to hatred with hatred.
According to Chief Brown, the sniper who attacked police officers “said he wanted to kill white people.” In response to the sniper attacks, a political commentator tweeted, “You did this Obama. You did this liberals. You did this #BLM.” He called for “patriotic Americans” to “stand against all the Cop haters – from Obama to the thugs on the street.” A news outlet blamed Black Lives Matter and called for it to be designated a terrorist organization. White supremacist groups called for a “race war.”
We can respond to racism with racism, to violence with violence. But if we do, the tragedies of last week will only be the beginning. As Scripture says, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses” (Proverbs 10:12).
Two: We can wait for normalcy to return. We can assume that the tensions of last week will dissipate and nothing will really change. But if we do, the divisions in our nation will only deepen. Scripture warns that “the complacency of fools destroys them” (Proverbs 1:32).
Three: We can decide that we must do whatever we must do to keep our past failures and present divisions from becoming our future reality.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. noted that “peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” Justice starts with honesty. It starts with admitting the racial fault lines that threaten to destroy our communities. It starts with admitting that we are at an impasse that isn’t working. Many black Americans are convinced that white Americans will never understand the injustice of our society while many white Americans are convinced that black Americans should just move on.
Both are wrong.
The time has come to heal our cities. As Dr. King reminded us, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The plight of one is the plight of all. The prophet proclaimed, “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).
City leaders should convene community leaders to diagnose our divisions and define steps for change. Faith leaders should continue to call us together across racial lines for prayer, confession, repentance, and redemptive action. Each of us should ask ourselves what we have done to contribute to the pain and what we will do to contribute to healing.
These steps are essential in every American city. None of us is immune from the anger and violence affecting us all.
A British commentator responded to the tragedy in Dallas: “A democracy as racist as America will never be at peace.” He’s right, unless we choose to make him wrong. If you say we can’t heal our society, you’re part of the problem. If you say we can, you’re part of the solution.
Which side are you on?