POINT OF VIEW: In the wake of Harvey, let’s not forget Heather


The month of August was a study of extremes in American citizenship.

Selfless heroics by ordinary Texans stand in stark contrast to the hatred and bigotry on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. The events represent the best and worst of our society. As South Floridians, our hearts ache for those struggling in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Yet, while we bear witness to the horrific weather disaster in Texas, I fear an additional casualty of the storm is our national outrage at the storm of hatred exhibited in Charlottesville.

The past month has not been easy for our nation or our communities. Deeply entrenched beliefs fueled by bigotry and prejudice were elevated to the national stage. But this national spotlight has also illuminated values and characteristics which reflect what America is truly about; the calls for unity vastly outnumbered the calls for division. We are encouraged that so many are recognizing that America is stronger when our commonalities are celebrated rather than our differences exposed.

The events that transpired in Charlottesville are a clear and resounding call for us all to engage actively in the fight against hatred. We cannot just utter heavy words while taking no action. As we focus on Hurricane Harvey, we must not forget Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman killed by a neo-Nazi sympathizer at the Charlottesville protest. As community leaders and citizens, we must ask what we can do to move our communities closer to the place where we embrace all our neighbors as we embrace ourselves and our families.

As city leaders, we are on the front lines of our communities. Combatting division must begin at the local level, where government is closest to the people. While it may be difficult to engage in open and honest dialogue about our history of racial and religious bigotry, let us not shy away from that task. But let us not get stuck there either. We must focus on where we want to go, and work hand-in-hand to build better communities.

Racial hatred and religious bigotry know no borders. That’s why last week, as president of the Palm Beach County League of Cities, I launched the Stand Together Initiative. As part of that initiative, the organization has issued a public statement encouraging municipal elected officials throughout the county to identify and encourage initiatives in each of their communities that are fighting hatred and bigotry. We urge municipal leaders to speak from the dais about the need for unity and healing in our communities, to pass resolutions or post statements on their municipal websites, and take action throughout our cities, towns and villages in furtherance of unity and healing.

History proves that out of tragedy rises triumph. As we’ve witnessed in Texas, during our darkest times, Americans have linked arms and walked towards the light. Following the ugliness of racial hatred and religious intolerance recently displayed in Charlottesville, let us continue to work together to bridge our differences and build a strong foundation of unity for a better tomorrow.

KEITH JAMES, WEST PALM BEACH

Editor’s note: James represents Dist. 4 on the West Palm Beach City Commission.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: Evangelicals can’t advance dignity by dehumanizing others

If the stages of a social movement are emergence, coalescence, bureaucratization and decline, the reaction against the Trump evangelicals among other evangelicals is still in the emergence stage. But one significant act of coalescence took place recently at Wheaton College, where a group of 50 ethnically and denominationally diverse evangelical leaders...
Opinion: Educational fraud continues

Earlier this month, the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress, aka The Nation’s Report Card, was released. It’s not a pretty story. Only 37 percent of 12th-graders tested proficient or better in reading, and only 25 percent did so in math. Among black students, only 17 percent tested proficient or better in reading, and just...
Opinion: Barbara Bush: Fake pearls, genuine heart

Barbara Bush was an expert at throwing shade, even before the term existed. When Congressman Dan Rostenkowski gave the first lady a shampoo for white hair made in his Illinois district, she tried it on her dog Millie. “When I shampooed her with it, she became a brown and slightly yellow-haired dog,” she wrote in her memoir. “At this...
Opinion: Remembering Barbara Bush, grieving mother

My mother and Barbara Bush were contemporaries. Despite coming from very different backgrounds — daughter of a Kansas farmer and daughter of a New York City businessman — they had a common experience, a very human link. It’s a sad connection that I suspect also has many a woman feeling fondly toward Bush, who died Tuesday at 92. Both...
Opinion: Paul Ryan is the ultimate party man

The mistake about Paul Ryan, the one that both friends and foes made over the years between his Obama-era ascent and his just-announced departure from the House speakership, was to imagine him as a potential protagonist for our politics, a lead actor in the drama of conservatism, a visionary or a villain poised to put his stamp upon the era. This Ryan-of-the-imagination...
More Stories