Too many treat greatness not as a responsibility but as an entitlement, an inheritance that was earned for them. They fail to grasp that the struggle for our values is the prize. Take it for granted and it slips away. We will defeat enemies like the Islamic State by learning from our past, not airbrushing it.
Accountability for people of privilege must include breaking out of the safety of our cocoons of privilege and building relationships with people across lines of difference. It must begin with examining our privilege and then figuring out how to use our privilege to address the ongoing forms of injustice that we see.
Jesse Washington was just one black man to die horribly at the hands of white death squads. Between 1882 and 1968 -- 1968! -- there were 4,743 recorded lynchings in the U.S. About a quarter of them were white people, many of whom had been killed for sympathizing with black folks. My father, who was born in 1904 near Paris, Texas, kept in a drawer that newspaper photograph from back when he was a boy of thousands of people gathered as if at a picnic to feast on the torture and hanging of a black man in the center of town. On a journey tracing our roots many years later, my father choked and grew silent as we stood near the spot where it had happened. Yes, it was hard to get back to sleep the night we heard the news of the Jordanian pilot's horrendous end. ISIS be damned! I thought. But with the next breath I could only think that our own barbarians did not have to wait at any gate. They were insiders. Home grown. Godly. Our neighbors, friends, and kin. People like us.
"American slaves were liberated in 1861 but did not get voting rights until 107 years later. So why can't Hong Kong wait for a while?" Recently Laura Cha, a Hong Kong politician, made this rather unnerving statement in reference to pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong who have been protesting having their election ballots limited to China-vetted candidates only.