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If There Be Any Praise: Thoughts Following Wilmington’s Peace March

Following the march last Saturday, along streets in the Northeast, a mostly African American neighborhood of Wilmington,Delaware, several local journalists observed that there were many more white marchers than black. A viewer of my video about the march (see below) commented that such occasions are merely feel-good exercises for white folk. They don’t change much. There is truth in that, to be sure, but I’m glad whites did turn out abundantly, because racism is a key factor in the culture of violence plaguing Wilmington (39 deaths by gunshot so far this year.) During the turbulent sixties, ethics professor and author of the book, The Suburban Captivity of the Churches, Gibson Winter, wrote that white flight from many American cities was making donuts: little was left in their centers, and most of the sugar was going to their outsides (the suburbs). The tax bases of cities were caving in, funding for urban schools was declining, stores were relocating to suburban malls, and industries were closing or moving. It became harder and harder for city residents, many of them African Americans, to find work that paid a living wage. Those 39 murders in Wilmington relate mostly to drug dealers expanding and defending their territories by force. Drug dealing provides an alternate economy in the mostly empty inner city. Drug dealing would not be so lucrative were it not for all the sugar around the outsides. Yes, some inner city folk do buy drugs, but what drives the drug juggernaut is the affluence of mostly white buyers in the burbs. So, it makes good sense that white folk should march against gun violence. And they should realize that trying to change a gun culture without creating a substitute for an economy that depends upon guns is probably a losing cause.

I shared that thought with a black marcher a few months ago. He said no, the violence of urban neighborhoods is caused not by material want, but by spiritual poverty. Again, there’s some truth in that too, because if folk with money to waste were enjoying spiritual vitality they would not try to buy happiness with a quick fix. An inconvenient truth, however, is that there will not likely be a speedy cure for Wilmington’s culture of violence. Remedy will come slowly, and not by rigorous moral education, not by creating hundreds of new jobs, not by improving neighborhood policing, not by supporting early childhood education, not by. . . well, you fill in the blank. All these efforts are needed, and many more besides. It’s a huge job, which is why we ought not shame any marcher by alleging that he or she has shown up just to feel good. There is plenty of guilt to go around. We’re all responsible in one way or another for the sorry state of affairs. If there’s a smidgen of contriteness and good will, is it not better for us all to praise rather than disparage it? To make things better there is more than plenty to do, and everyone’s effort is needed. The man got it right who said, “Whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, let’s think on these things.”

Highlights of the Peace March of Saturday, September 27th, in Wilmington, Delaware


  1. A wise friend recently offered this thought, “We are in this together”, which applies to most everything. We cannot work this together is we stand apart. If the only thing that we folks on the outter edge of the donut do is to come to Wilmington, shout and march, then your friend is right. We all must get on the streets, don the colors of the Peacekeepers and do what we know to be right.

  2. Terry Dykstra Terry Dykstra

    Yes. We have many and varied factors to address in gun violence. You are correct. We must do what is right even if we can only tackle little pieces of it A very insightful article,Tom

  3. Very insightful, Tom, thank you!
    It really makes me think of similar complex social issues. You pointed out so many things – gun violence, drug dealers, racism with a perfect donut-like analogy for this utterly disturbing reappearance of segregation (isn’t that what it is really?). For such a multilayered problem, we obviously have to think of a systematic approach – systematic, and yet centered around a human being. I have to admit even after 6 years of my life in USA, I still have difficulties wrapping my head around the notion of “individualism”. I feel extremely fortunate to live in a free country with all my basic human rights under protection. But I also see some individuals crushed inside, in full despair, and

  4. it boggles my mind – how is that possible with so much individualism around?
    I hope to meet you over a cup of tea or coffee to discuss some of these paradoxes, whenever you have time for an old friend =)
    Have a blessed day!

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