While watching the Democratic National Convention, there was definitely a special moment of pride in seeing Sen. Kamala Harris accept the vice presidential nomination as the first black woman on a major party ticket. A daughter of immigrants and an HBCU (historically black college or university) graduate, the latter of which represents my college experience, she embodies the promise of the ideals of the American Dream, regardless of our differing partisan views. As I listened to Harris address the nation in her trailblazing role, eloquently poised for her moment in history, two points she made stood out to me. The first was her paraphrasing of 2 Corinthians 5:7, when she stated, "the Word that teaches me to walk by faith, and not by sight." Harris used this scriptural reference to explain "a vision passed on through generations of Americans," later mentioning that this "vision makes the American promise — for all its complexities and imperfections — a promise worth fighting for." The second compelling point for me was when Harris asserted that "there is no vaccine for racism." She maintained that the coronavirus has exposed the shameful truth of how we really see one another in this country, how we lack empathy regarding the struggles and hardships of our fellow citizens. COVID-19 has certainly brought out the worst traits of people during a time of painful loss and suffering, but I would stress to Harris that there has always been an age-old vaccine for racism in its most virulent form: unconditional love.
Regarding love and the ongoing battle against bigotry that savagely tries to strangle the core of our nation's soul, I always think about how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that "hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that." King also said, "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality." Believing that unconditional love will have the final say in what we are witnessing during these extremely polarizing times exemplifies the walk of faith that Harris was speaking about. It takes strong faith to believe that love will triumph when we continually see protests erupting in our cities, like the current unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, over the police shooting of a 29-year-old black man named Jacob Blake, who's currently paralyzed from the waist down. Another tragedy quickly emerged from these protests, as a 17-year-old has been charged with homicide after two people were killed. The grim spirit of violence pouring out in our streets travels unmercifully like a virus, infecting hearts and poisoning minds. Protesting injustice alone is not going to stamp out fear and hatred.
Harris boldly declared that we are at "an inflection point" in our nation and that "we've gotta do the work." She's right, and going back to faith, one of the pioneering educators and civil rights activists Harris praised for paving the way for her, Mary McLeod Bethune, once said that "faith is the first factor in a life devoted to service. Without it, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible." Faith is needed to do the work Harris is passionately calling for, but we must also not forget that engaging in this good fight against racial prejudice, police brutality and other social inequalities without love is meaningless. The principles of 1 Corinthians 13:3 need to be applied in our present-day activism. The apostle Paul explained in this verse that if he were to give everything he had in ministry to the poor, and if he were to even make the ultimate sacrifice, giving up his life, doing all of these great works without love would profit him nothing. The sports world stands still, with games suspended in the NBA, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer to call for justice in Blake's shooting. We can't harbor hatred in our hearts toward those on the opposite side. God's love is our most powerful weapon, the vaccine we need in this massive fight against injustice.
Harris will probably refer back to many of the points she made in her VP acceptance speech as she hits the campaign trail with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. In this bitter political climate with all the vitriol coming her way, she'll definitely need to meditate on 2 Corinthians 5:7. But no matter the outcome in November, faith combined with love will always be a winning combination. This is the truth we must cling to.
Dr. Jessica A. Johnson is a lecturer in the English department at Ohio State University's Lima campus. Email her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @JjSmojc. To find out more about Jessica Johnson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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