Fifty years ago, I was a college student at Hampton Institute (now University). The civil rights movement was growing, and I was proud to be a part of it. We sat peacefully at lunch counters, walked across bridges locking arms with our white friends, participated in bus boycotts and garbage strikes.
Today’s chaos, riots and criminal behavior are a stark difference from those peaceful demonstrations. The events painfully unfolding before our eyes reveal that America’s race issues are not fully resolved.
For more than 50 years, I have denounced violence as a tool to bring about change—I believed it then, and I do today. Sadly, riots over this past week have damaged many of the businesses that provide work, groceries, services and necessities in our minority communities.
While we can and should sympathize with the deep pain that those in the black community are feeling, we must never be complacent in the face of violence.
That’s why it is my most fervent prayer that George Floyd’s tragic death leads us to a better, safer and more unified country. We have made tremendous progress in my lifetime. This difficult moment in our history gives us an opportunity to get this right and to live up to the American ideal.
Conservative principles on individual freedom and liberty do far more to promote human flourishing and lift people out of poverty—and it’s those principles that can lead to a different outcome in the future than the failures of the past.
This piece originally appeared in Politico Magazine