Religion News Service: America, we must not give in to tribalism

(RNS) These are contentious times. Battle lines have been drawn upon everything that could possibly divide us: politics, ethnicities, religions, gender, sexual orientation and socio-economics. Especially now in the aftermath of brutal weeks of racial tension on top of an already combative primary season and run-up to the presidential election, everyone is being asked to pick a side.

I feel like shouting with all the force I can summon, “We are better than this, America!”

That is not to make light of the very real struggles that exist. As a Hispanic who grew up in a predominantly white community, I know something about racism. Yet, my experience pales in comparison to what many in the African-American community experience on a daily basis.

This sentiment rings especially true in the wake of the police-involved shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the subsequent assassination of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

The sad truth is that instead of recognizing that both sides bleed from this conflict, many will use these events to further divide our nation.

Remember the murder trial of O.J. Simpson?

One month after the slayings of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman, 63 percent of white Americans thought Simpson was guilty while 65 percent of black Americans thought he was innocent. More than a year later, with all of the evidence made public in the “trial of the century,” ABC News anchor Peter Jennings noted that in fact the gap of opinion between races had only widened (77 percent and 72 percent, respectively).

This trial, which so focused our collective attention on the relationship between black Americans and the police, ended with our nation further apart, not closer together.

You see, we must be able to differentiate race baiting and political opportunism from sincere cries of injustice. Lately it seems that many “activists” are little more than professional hype machines, hoping to stir up clicks and views or get more coverage on the nightly news.