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Mourning and Thanksgiving

On Saturday morning, I was among the mourners at my aunt's funeral when the nation fell into deep mourning over the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. As I grieved with my family for our loss, I also grieved with communities across the nation. I said prayers for my grieving uncle and my rabbi friends. I shared comforting words with my cousins and sent quick notes to my Jewish friends and colleagues. I spent hours at 12-course Chinese dinners with my family and made plans to attend Shabbat services this weekend. Mourning in solidarity brings healing and strength in every community. 

Our grief captures us in a particular space and time, and we are often unable to be aware of what is happening around us. In the space of my mourning, I did not forget about the killing of 2 African Americans in a Kentucky grocery store. When the shooter was unable to enter a nearby African American Baptist church, he instead walked into the grocery store and killed a grandfather as he was shopping with his grandson, and then exited the grocery store and killed a random woman he encountered in the parking lot. We must grieve with this community as well. 

The connection between the shootings in Kentucky and Pennsylvania is that these hate crimes were committed by persons enthralled by the dehumanizing ideology of white supremacy and internalized racist superiority. They did not see humans, they saw objects. They did not see the beauty of diversity, they saw a threat to their identity. The aftermath of their actions brought our shared humanity into stark relief, with diverse voices crying out in shock, pain and compassion for each other. 

Do you see it? The earnest call for supremacy and power over others for the purpose of establishing a society to conform to a culture of whiteness is at the root cause of our mourning. Racism is the reason for our grief, and we have been unable to eradicate it from our society for hundreds of years. This is yet another reason to mourn, because this tells us that unless we can break through these cycles of racist fear and violence, we will enlist our future generations to inevitably experience our present tragedy. We do not want this future. 

People of Love, I give thanks for hope. I see us reaching out to comfort one another and extending unexpected kindness. In this time of brokenness, we can see each other as humans, not as objects. We have this opportunity to appreciate our diversity and differences, and stepping into those opportunities gives us the solidarity we need to break away from cyclical behaviors that reinforce racist rhetoric and systems. We do not need to begin with a sweeping ten-point strategic plan to break down racism. We can begin to create a new future with acts of kindness, honest relationships, open dialogue and the generosity of our hearts to learn to love one another. 

In Solidarity with you, 

Rev. Doris K. Dalton Executive Director, MLK Institute for Nonviolence

November 1, 2018

Rev. Doris K. Dalton Executive Director, MLK Institute for Nonviolence


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