An Older White Man’s Message to Angry Young Blacks in Baltimore

This message may mean nothing to you. But long ago my little league coach said it is better to swing and miss than take a called third strike.

As I studied to become a rabbi, I was also taught: One who saves a single life is regarded as though he or she had saved the whole world.

So if just one of you resonates to these words, I will be happy. If not then at least I took my cut.

The circumstances under which many of you have grown up are beyond awful! The instances of police use of excessive force against black males in 2015 alone are ample evidence that the system is in urgent need of fixing. It is awful! I share your frustration and your anger.

But I know that we have made some progress.

 Freddie Gray’s assailants have been indicted! When I was growing up there were no black mayors or black police commissioners in any large cities, let alone a Black President of the United States.

Yes, there has been progress, but we still have such a long way to go!

As we move forward, each of you has a choice. You can be part of the ongoing problem. Or you can be part of the solution. Your call!

Your lives matter!

Each of you has talents, abilities and energy! You must choose how to use them.

You have a choice!

You can learn as much as you can, develop the talent that God has given you—and find ways to use that talent to make a better world. Or you can succumb to the despair, poverty, hopelessness, crime and anger that surround you.

Think about it!

What if all the energy and time that went into looting and destroying in recent days had gone into clearing a vacant lot, planting trees and flowers and creating a park?

Yes, we make choices and must live with them, but here’s the thing: The choices you made in the past don’t have to determine the choices you make in the future. If you have done good, you can choose to continue to do so. If you’ve done bad you can do better.

God does not make that choice for you, but I believe God is intensely interested in the choices you make!

 I believe that the Bible in the Book of Deuteronomy (Chapter 30, verse 15-19) is speaking to each and every one of us: “See I have set before you this day life and goodness, death and evil … Therefore choose LIFE, that you and those who come after you may live.”

Yes, there is so much negative stuff in your lives that you did not create and that you cannot control. My heart weeps at the thought. But you have to decide whether you will use those horrible realities as an excuse to make them worse or as a spur to make them better.

I believe with all my heart that God cares what you do with the gifts you have been given. Life and death, good and evil are before you! The choice is yours!

Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs is the author of, What’s in It for Me? Finding Ourselves in Biblical Narratives. He is the former President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Beth Israel, West Hartford, CT

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