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We have always needed the “courageous conversations” to move the needle in America, but this time we might finally get the ball over some goal lines

 

There is nothing like being humbled with the opportunity to be a part of history. All politics aside: having a chance to directly speak with the Vice President of the United States and a 2-term US Senator on historic issues facing our nation brings a sense of gratitude – of God, of supportive family, and of friends.

It also brings some nervousness, some tension, and some isolation — especially as a Black conservative who has experienced so much of the realities that African-Americans go through in our nation today. The accumulation of those experiences – some systemic, some unique – not only led me to that moment at Covenant Church of Pittsburgh on Friday, but it has led us collectively to the divisive and explosive times we are living through today.

Having multiple victims of gun violence in my family, including almost losing my father years ago to it. Having undergone repugnant racism throughout life, including being taunted as a “ni&&er on the hill” as a 10-year-old pitcher playing baseball just minutes from where I stood Friday. Having dropped out of college years ago due to financial woes, only to struggle to secure a quality education for my children decades later in the same fashion. Having been “last hired, first fired” without regards to my education or talents. Having been followed by the police inexplicably because I “fit the description” — ironically enough (the last time), on my way home from doing my television show where we had just discussed stop-and-frisk and other police tactics that disproportionally target Blacks. Having wondered often if we will ever solve this issue of divisiveness in America.

I felt tension and apprehension.

Yet, as I walked in, I was immediately greeted by Steve Shelton, a wonderful Christian and builder of men. He leads the award-winning Pittsburgh Trade Institute. It was honored by the Manhattan Project and extolled by George Will as a free-markets example of helping folks rebuild their lives after paying their debts to society through learning a skill and moral reconstitution.

I felt comfort and connection.

Later, I was approached by one of the ministers, asking me if I knew an attendee. Not just any attendee: another Pittsburgh guy that toiled from humble beginnings to create a good life for himself. Today, he was serving as protection for our nation’s leaders.

I felt surprise and joy.

Before I knew it, it was time to walk to the stage. I shook the hand of the one participant that I did not know – Pastor Ross Owens – only to find out in that moment that he started his ministry at the foot of my late uncle.

I felt belonging and intentionality.

Eventually, it was time to clarify.

It was time to advocate.

It was time to explain.

We discussed issues during the televised event. We did so after the microphones were silenced. Pictures were taken. Numbers were exchanged. Follow up plans were made.

After all of that, did I feel optimism? Even now, do I feel “a shift” – in the direction, tone, and eventual yield from such listening events?

I do.

Some will point to “small victories” such as moving President Trump’s Tulsa rally from the Juneteenth Celebration to afterwards.  However, I think that there’s more coming in the days ahead, and it will be more than just a symbolic gesture from the President’s campaign or a photo op.

There is a great need to heal America – racially, socioeconomically, academically, and, of course, physically (i.e., as we continue to deal with COVID-19). There are still great risks facing our nation. There’s the threat of terrorism, international economic battles for free and fair trade, and rogue nations seeking to menace global regions through their continued pursuits of nuclear capabilities and psychological warfare. The truth is: people love the safety and comforts that America provides their families more than they seek to propagate racial hate. The reality of our nation today is: people are watching the erosion of hope and trust in the American Dream. That reality risks our role as the moral force for good in the world being forfeited to communist-driven China or frenemies that have become more Cold War-ish in their actions over recent years.

We cannot allow that to happen, for our children’s sake domestically and for the global good.

Improving education in urban America, increasing economic prosperity in underserved communities, and protecting the civil rights of Blacks are more than just domestic goals to pursue. They are mileposts along the path to building “…a more Perfect Union…” Our ability to keep America a beacon for freedom depends on our success in securing constitutional law and order for all our countrymen. Our ability to keep our world from devolving relies on our ability to have order through law – something that we have realized in 2020 is not guaranteed if we must trust immoral, foreign regimes to share information to keep us safe. Our ability to foster a world where free markets can empower those that have been historically discriminated against, raise people out of poverty in an exponential fashion, and inspire democracies that serve their people can only come about if the strongest force for good is the United States. We can only do that if our own house is not burning down – figuratively and literally – due to domestic unrest from maladies that we have not addressed fully. More Americans are finally understanding this stark reality. A just America domestically creates hope and trust internationally.

George Floyd’s death has brought us to this point nationally, but it was merely the final action that opened a door of destiny we have been tugging at for years on end. It became the mirror that forced us to take it all in without turning away, just as a coffin did decades earlier. Now that we have entered this space, we may finally address it all – from a void in spirituality to a robust need to reclaim our values civically through good public policies. Together, we can empower the best of America for all Americans. Strategically, we are collectively issuing challenges – to each other, not just to those in elected office – to do the work necessary to heal the land, protect the people, and empower our future.

I left Friday ready to do just that, as the conversation was a move in that direction, not just a discussion. I hope that you are ready, too.

 

 

Lenny McAllister
Lenny McAllister is a host for the new online show, Red + Black, along with Red State Editor-At-Large Kira Davis and contributors Jeff Charles and Christopher Arps. He is the Director of Western Pennsylvania for Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania's free markets think tank. Over the years, the Pittsburgh native has appeared on Fox News, The Blaze, Sirius XM Radio, Radio New Zealand, and other national and international outlets. Lenny also hosted radio shows in Chicago and Pittsburgh as well as NightTalk: Get To The Point on the Pittsburgh Cable News Channel. A former pitcher at Davidson College, he sadly now holds a view commonly shared in Western Pennsylvania: that baseball season is merely a slow build-up to what matters most...football season.
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