Here in San Diego County, peaceful demonstrators honored the memory of George Floyd, the African-American victim of a white Minneapolis policeman who continuously and fatally pushed his knee into Floyd’s neck, hampering the prone man’s ability to breathe. The demonstrators’ cries for racial justice were heart-felt, appropriate, and in need of urgent redress.

Also, here in San Diego County, particularly in La Mesa, rioters of diverse racial backgrounds dishonored George Floyd, using his unwarranted death as an excuse for arson and looting. Torching cars and buildings, while stealing merchandise from local retail stores, did no honor to Floyd, nor to the cause of racial justice, nor to themselves. The rioters acted purely and simply as criminals, and no matter how frustrated some of them were by being out of work during the coronavirus pandemic, or how angered they were by a pattern throughout this country of excessive force by individual law enforcement officers  against Black men, nothing justifies their violence or criminal behavior.

Once again, in the wake of rioting, our country faces the questions of what we can do better, how can we redress the grievances, what punishments should wrongdoers face, and what systemic changes are necessary to right the many wrongs.

As we try to regain our balance in the aftermath of the wrongful killing of George Floyd, let us resolve to avoid generalizing the problems.  While condemning individual law enforcement officers who act brutally under the shield of authority, let us continue to honor the many brave and good men and women of our police and sheriff’s forces who time and time again put their lives on the line to protect us.  In the emotion of the moment, let us resist blanket condemnations and concentrate on the facts.

I believe that all of us need to stay engaged in this issue, and not let it become yesterday’s news, as we unfortunately have done with so many other pressing national concerns. I think specifically of such horrors as the mass shootings, the extremes of income inequality, and the high cost of health care.

By staying engaged, I mean we need to look deeply into our own hearts and ask what can we each do on an individual, personal level to improve inter-group relations. What can we do as members of religious and civic organizations to improve relations among the races, the religions, the political parties, genders, those of different sexual orientation and economic classes? How can we actualize our country’s slogan, e pluribus unum, from the many comes one.

Are we able to lead by example, and if so, will we? To answer this question, a good place to start will be in our synagogues and temples, and in our neighbors’ churches and mosques, as we again begin to gather for worship.  Let’s hear from our rabbis and our communal leaders, and let us convert good words into good actions.

Republished from San Diego Jewish World