We are at a breaking point in American society. Racial tensions, once simmering beneath the surface like a dormant volcano, has burst through the surface in dramatic fashion, destroying the fragile framework that was set in the post civil rights era. Religious intolerance is rapid on all sides and college kids, the future leaders of our country, would rather hide in a safe space then have any meaningful, albeit possibly uncomfortable, conversation about the issues facing the country.
In the 20th century famed African intellectual W.E.B Dubois stated that “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line”. Eboo Patel, a member of President Barack Obama’s inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships and founder of The Interfaith Youth Core, seconded this idea saying in his book “Acts Of Faith” “The twenty-first century will be shaped by the question of the faith line”.
Never do these words ring more true than today. Starting with the death of Trayvon Martin and continuing through the Charlottesville protests, the race line issue has reemerged with a vengeance in the twenty-first century, opening old wounds and possibly even surpassing the religious line.
What are these ideas of a “race line” and a “religious line” that we speak of? On one side of the lines are people who want to use race and religion to divide us, people like the KKK, white supremacists, BLM, Neo-Nazis, ISIS, Osama Bin Laden etc…, and on the other side are people who hope to use our differences to bring us together like Martin Luther King and religious pluralists. What side of the line we decide to be on will ultimately decide whether we can make our society whole again or watch it crumble away into anarchy.
The way to confronting and fixing these problems are not easy, it will take a lot of hard uncomfortable discussions about race, religion, our history, and how we can reconcile these things. These are the exact conversations that college students around the country have been cowering away from. They refuse to listen to any opinion that isn’t theirs and disrupt, sometimes violently, speakers of differing opinions. These actions only deepen the divide in America and do nothing but to antagonize the other side. The only way we can reconcile our differences is if we stop hiding from uncomfortable talks and opposing views and reach out to each other. To face our problems we must do exactly that, face them.