I don't know that I can add anything profound to the conversation at this point, but I wanted to say something rather than just staying silent. I think it's vitally important for this nation that we both have this conversation and, ultimately, move beyond it and into actively working to change where we are. There's no doubt the conversation is complex (race, class, power, justice, guns . . .) and there's no doubt that it will be hard to have. It will be a lot of work to dig ourselves out of where we are. But we have to do it: it's not going to fix itself.
Leadership requires something more than reacting. As I am writing this, I have seen nothing resembling leadership from those that our major political parties will nominate as their candidates for president. This is troubling.
From Clinton, we got a tweet characterizing the killing of Philando Castile as a "tragedy." At least that was something: from Trump, we got a tweet about the use of a six-pointed star on the cover of a book about the Disney movie Frozen. (Update: according to this Wall Street Journal piece, Clinton will address the shootings in a speech later today).
It's no secret that social media has played a powerful role in spreading information and influencing the debate about issues of race in this country. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have made it possible to shine a light on things many Americans would like to pretend don't exist. Well, they do exist. Now what are we going to do about it? Alone, most of us are very limited in our ability to marshall resources to effect change. Our leaders, conversely, are in a much stronger position. And this is why they have to lead. Tweeting is not leading. It is, quite literally, just about the least they can do.
I'm imagining both of our major presidential candidates doing the calculus to figure out what they can say in this situation to help themselves get elected. Maybe I'm wrong and that's not what they're doing. Maybe they're doing some hard thinking and not just lost in triangulation. But it troubles me that my expectations, correct or not, are so low. The issues that we have to face and address are not simple. They will require more than 140 characters.
A year ago, I was on the road with my daughter on the way to an Against Me! concert in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In our hotel room on the morning of July 10, we watched the lowering of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House live on CNN. That symbol was retired from that location as a direct result of the race-motivated mass shooting in Charleston in mid-June. It made me very hopeful to see that flag come down from the capitol of my soon-to-be home. Not everyone here feels that way: the South Carolina Secessionst Party plans to hold a flag-raising rally on the State House grounds this Sunday (the anniversary of the flag removal).
Although I'm not sure what, exactly, I can do or say to be part of a solution in this country, I do know that staying silent and pretending we don't have a problem isn't going to cut it. Neither is simply tweeting condolences or outrage. It is not responsible for me to just do nothing. It's important that we take real steps to grapple with these issues, and it's fair to ask our wannabe leaders to show some leadership.