GUEST COLUMN:

In a time of despair, America needs compassion and justice — now

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Steve Marcus

Protesters hold up signs and chant at Metro Police officers during a Black Lives Matter protest in Las Vegas Friday, May 29, 2020. Protesters were reacting to the death of George Floyd, who died while in Minneapolis police custody.

Editor’s note: The following column was co-authored by Rabbi Sanford Akselrad of Congregation Ner Tamid, the Rev. Catherine Gregg leads the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, Jolie Brislin is the Nevada regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, the Rev. Gard Jameson chairs the Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada, and Imam Mujahid Ramadan of Masjid As-Sabur.

It was a terrible week for this country in so many respects: the horrific reality caught on video of George Floyd being murdered in police custody, a reporter of color and his crew being arrested for doing their job covering the unrest that’s emerged, and finally a white woman in Central Park calling 911 and falsely accusing a black man of harassing her.

All of this horror is occurring while the entire country continues to reel (and vulnerable communities even more so) from the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.

George Floyd’s death has cast a spotlight yet again on one of our primary social ills, racism, a terrible virus perhaps even more frightening than COVID-19.

Racism is not spread by a mysterious microbe, but by the prejudice, bias and bigotry that lies hidden in our hearts, awaiting our personal acknowledgement and transformation. Every time we think we have taken a step forward, it seems we fall two steps back.

Rioting and further violence is clearly not the answer. The riots reflect peoples’ pain and frustration, the fact that they are not being heard. This wound must be healed, again and again, rapidly, until the virus of racism is totally eradicated and replaced by a compassionate heart. How many times must the bandage of calm be ripped away until we heed Dr. Martin Luther King’s call that we judge all by the content of their character and not the color of their skin? At what point will we at last heed Dr. King’s appreciation that injustice for one is injustice for each and every one of us?

We are heartbroken by the cold-hearted murder of George Floyd. America in 2020 is still the place where black men, women and children are regularly murdered by the people who have vowed to protect them. It is the place where Hispanics are persecuted. While the vast majority of our law enforcement agencies do abide by the principles of justice and compassion, these events should awaken that voice which declares, “Enough!”

We call upon all people of conscience and faith to use our voices, our feet, our dollars to defeat the insidious voices of racism, homophobia, xenophobia and all forms of bias at the polls, in our homes, within our places of worship and within our community, both locally and globally.

We ask for prayers and thoughts for the Floyd family, the Scott family, the Rice family, the Gray family, the Brown family and so many more. We ask for all of us to step up our personal vigil against prejudice wherever it raises its deadly head, and to help transform that emotion into compassion.