Our Quote of the Week invites us to address a central obstacle to our achievement of unity: the violence that too many of us experience in our society. From the escalation in physical violence towards our Asian American friends to the the disregard shown by too many of us towards the persistence of poverty levels in the US and to the injustices in our legal system, we must stand up to the manifold expressions of violence that are leaving too many of us scarred, both psychologically as well as physically.
In 1968, Sargent Shriver addressed the graduates at Wilberforce University, giving a convocation speech that is
reflective of the era, but that also transcends it. He addresses the
problems of inequality, racism, and systemic poverty,
asserting that it is impossible to eradicate violence without addressing the
desperation that millions of people feel due to lack of opportunity, justice,
and freedom. He says:
To the extent we have violence at home, I think one might well
conclude we have not created the conditions in which the good life can
Shriver outlines the signs of unity he sees in churches and communities all around him, as people of different faiths and from diverse walks of life band together to work on a common purpose -- something that creates the "human unity" he refers to in the quote.
Although Shriver asserts that unity is necessary and is most certainly achievable, his words illustrate that it is not possible without eradicating the levels of violence he sees happening "everywhere", and without the application of "pure and undiluted" justice.
As we reflect on Shriver's words and process the calls for unity that we hear in 2021, we must acknowledge that working towards unity is not easy. It must include everything from difficult conversations in our homes to policy changes in our systems to fostering intersectionality in our communities. We must work together to stand up to the hatred that causes the many types of violence we are seeing around us. And we must also shed the cynicism that tempts us into thinking that human unity is not possible.