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A glimmer of hope

STEPHANIE JO NES | 7/31/2013, 10:37 a.m.

In explaining in clear, logical and often personal terms the context against which African Americans view Martin’s killing, Obama gently guided a large audience toward a better understanding that a perspective different from the majority view is not wrong – but it, in fact, has merit and should be understood and respected.

But he didn’t just speak of his own experiences; he went a step further and urged all Americans to honestly examine our own views and attitudes and interactions, and then to reach out to one another to find common ground. And then he offered us that ray of hope, reminding us that, while we might not be where we need to be or want to be as a nation, we are certainly not where we once were.

“[A]s difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better,” the president said. “Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. It doesn’t mean that we’re in a post-racial society. It doesn’t mean that racism is eliminated . . . [but] along this long, difficult journey, you know, we’re becoming a more perfect union – not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.” In recent weeks, that arc seemed to swing wildly in the wrong direction, pushed by human forces in our midst but beyond our control. But we can take heart in the fact that countless of our fellow Americans – including Obama and people of all races and backgrounds – understand our story, feel our pain, share our mission, and are committed to helping bend the arc further and further, little by little, back toward justice and closer to the more perfect union.

Stephanie Jones is president of Stephanie Jones Strategies, a Washington, D.C., public affairs firm. She can be reached at info@stephaniejonesstrategies.com.