Thursday marks 30 days since Keith Scott’s death.
In Judaism, we observe stages of mourning. After a burial, to confront our loss, we stay home for seven days. After the first week, we resume normal activity knowing that nothing is normal – we have lost a loved one. For 30 days, we refrain from attending social events. And for an entire year, we work to rebuild our lives.
Many of us who love Charlotte still mourn. We weep for Keith Scott’s and for Justin Carr’s families. We feel sorrow for Officer Brentley Vinson, who is experiencing the shattered vision of his life’s work. We feel pain for the peaceful protesters who had tear gas fired at them and for the police officers injured because of their responsibility to maintain order.
Scott’s death shook our city. We experienced seven days of intense mourning for our broken Charlotte. Many stayed home and uptown businesses suffered. We saw 17 days of protests and had visitors from at least 11 other cities come to show support. Sadly, we attracted some criminal opportunists who caused damage. The incidents highlighted a deeper brokenness and the negative reputation with which we were already struggling.
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In Judaism, after the first seven days of grieving, the mourners leave home and take a walk around the block. It affirms one’s commitment to focus on life rather than death and to create a positive outcome from the painful experience.
That is our task today. To allow the trauma of the aftermath of Scott’s death to change our city for the better.
Our leaders are taking first steps.
Two hundred twenty-five leaders signed a Statement of Commitment acknowledging the realities that led to outrage and to work toward being a community of justice, equity and opportunity for all citizens.
The NAACP Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch and a group of Charlotte parents who lost children at the hands of police recognize the need to address all violence.
The Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice recognizes that for our city to move forward, we require a process of truth and reconciliation. We are not yet free from the oppression upon which our country was built. For African Americans, the playing field has been, and continues to be, uneven and unjust.
Our first 30 days have ended but mourning continues. So what can we do to help Charlotte heal over the next eleven months?
We can listen. We invite you to join our listening campaign by answering the question “What will it take for us to have a just Charlotte?” Go to charlotteclergycoalition.com to share your answer and to hear the voices of others committed to change. Listen, also, to the voices of protesters at Charlotte Uprising’s website.
We can learn. We have many community organizations that offer programs to help us understand our Southern history and what we can do to dismantle racism. Race Matters for Juvenile Justice, Community Building Initiative, and MeckMin are good places to start.
We can work. To bridge the divides, we can commit to repairing the pieces of Charlotte that desperately need fixing: public education, job development, affordable housing and building trust in our city.
We do not have one Charlotte-Mecklenburg; we have two – one flourishes, and one struggles to survive.
Consolation will come only by addressing our collective grief. September 20th marked a low point in our city’s history; however, if we commit to change, it can mark a turning point that can lead us through this year of mourning to a new place and to a new us.
Rabbi Judith Schindler is an Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Director of the Stan Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice at Queens University of Charlotte.