06/20/2015 05:09 pm ET Updated Jun 20, 2016

Please Take the Confederate Flag Down

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent
about things that matter."
Martin Luther King

First, my heart and prayers go out to the families and friends, the congregation, the people of Charleston and to our country. The horrific shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC are a symptom of a deep-rooted sickness in our country that can only begin to heal when we treat the root causes -- fear and hate.

As I watch the television coverage of the families of those murdered, I am amazed by their faith and their commitment to forgive the man who took the lives of their loved ones. They should be an inspiration to all of us. We must move to a collective mindset where love is the foundational value that shapes our lives, our communities, our country and our world.

Now to my plea: please take the Confederate flag down! I feel compelled to talk about the Confederate flag because symbols matter! A culture's symbols are critically important. They are powerful reminders of what that community values. Flags in particular are symbols of pride and commitment. Are the people of South Carolina truly proud of slavery and segregation? Are they proud of the Civil War that almost divided our country? Are they proud that over 620,000 soldiers died in the Civil War, almost as many soldiers that died in all of the other U.S. wars and conflicts combined? Are they committed to what the Confederate flag symbolizes to most people -- segregation, racism and hatred? I don't think the Confederate flag symbolizes the collective hearts and minds of most people in South Carolina and therefore it tarnishes their reputation.

It is apparent that the supporters of the Confederate flag do not understand the deep wounds slavery and racism have caused. Those wounds have not healed and symbols like the Confederate flag continue to inflame the wounds causing deep pain and heartbreak. When the Confederate flag is sanctioned by the state and displayed on a 30-foot pole on the lawn of South Carolina's capital, it is a powerful symbol that helps to shape the norms and the (intended and unintended) behaviors of the people of that state. And what message does it send when that Confederate flag is not lowered to half staff by that state to respect those murdered in this racially motivated massacre and their families, the community and the people of South Carolina?

It would be an abomination for the German government to display the swastika! Why is it okay for the South Carolina government to fly the Confederate flag? To display a symbol of hate, racism, abuse of an entire race and the legal institution of chattel slavery is not only irrational, it is immoral!

"We The People" need to find the courage to have the conversation about slavery and race in America. It is necessary if we are to understand the impact and continuing damage that a culture of hate and racism causes. Let's talk about it together to gain shared understanding and commitment to transform ourselves into a culture of love. It is time for Americans, and people everywhere, to join the journey towards love, peace and harmony, to give everyone in our country and our world the opportunity to grow and flourish.

Please have the conversation! Let's have the conversation on our lunch breaks, at our dinner tables, in our churches, synagogues and mosques, with our friends and most of all with our children. This critically important conversation will not only be a gift to all Americans, it will be a gift to the human spirit.