Racial Reconciliation and Background Checks Before Gun Purchase Are Our Only Choices

06/19/2015 09:02 am ET | Updated Jun 19, 2016

How many more acts of gun-based violence must occur before we as a nation, collectively with one voice, say, "Stop the killing -- enough is enough"?

How many more statements must we have from public officials, the president of the United States, media commentators, etc., before we come to fully accept and understand there is no other rational choice for Blacks and Whites in America to live together as citizen "brothers" and "sisters" or perish together as fools?

History persuasively suggests that an eye for an eye retribution ultimately will leave everybody blind.

To those who feel utter disgust and anger, as I do, at the killing of nine innocent people in an eminently and historically important African-American church in Charleston, S.C., we have no other choice but to channel our anger in love-based constructive response. We must re-commit and renew ourselves to 24/7 voter registration. We must re-commit and renew our efforts to get national background checks on the purchase or transfer of guns by or from one person to another.

And as difficult I as it is, those of us who are African-American have no other choice than to extend the hand of love and reconciliation to our white brothers and sisters, no matter how many times they may commit acts of violence against us. Yes, we must invoke all resources of state and federal law enforcement to protect our homes, our children, our persons and our churches from racist acts of violence. This must be done, however, in the spirit of reconciliation, not vengeance.

Some of you reading this blog know I was privileged to know and work closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At the age of 84, I remain influenced by his legacy. He was the 20th Century preeminent apostle of love, non-violence, racial reconciliation and the pursuit of excellence.

It is useful at this time to reflect on two heart-wrenching experiences related to Dr. King. The first was his eulogy at the funeral service of Reverend Reeb, a Unitarian Minister who was beaten to death by the Klan in Birmingham, AL. In his eulogy he said that in some way we were all responsible for the murder of Reverend Reeb.

So in his death, James Reeb says something to each of us, black and white alike--says that we must substitute courage for caution, says to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered him but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murder. His death says to us that we must work passionately, unrelentingly, to make the American dream a reality, so he did not die in vain.

The second "eulogy" I call your attention to are the remarks of Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968, when he was told that Dr. King had been assassinated earlier that evening in Memphis, TN. RFK was campaigning for the presidency at the time in Gary, Indiana. No one in the virtually all black audience had yet received the tragic news of Dr. King's murder.

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

Finally, I plead that if we don't now have racial reconciliation, what moral, practical and political choices do we have as a nation in this 21st Century?

If not now? When?