This has been a painful week for America, and South Bend stands with those who grieve in Minnesota, in Louisiana, and in Dallas.

The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are under investigation, but what we do know now is that there were encounters by young men of color with police officers in those cities that did not have to end with someone losing their life.

The murder that took place after a peaceful protest in Dallas last night is still being investigated too, but what we know is that police officers were killed just for being police officers, and that the families of officers everywhere, places like South Bend, are holding their loved ones a little tighter today.

And so we ask ourselves, how do we respond? What will we do? Thoughts and prayers will not be enough. Obviously these events will compel us to continue our search for policy answers. There will be talk of body cameras, background checks, assault rifles, officer training, diversity and inclusion.

But we also have to face something deeper that is going on. Something that is contributing to violence, and something we can and must overcome. And that is what happens when people see other people and don’t see a human being.

Something is being felt across our country this year. Vulnerable groups are being singled out, and people are being targeted because of who or what they are. From near and far, we have heard about verbal and physical attacks against people because they are black, because they are undocumented, because they are LGBT, because they are Latino, because they are Muslim, because they are Native American. And, as with what happened in Dallas, because they are police officers. What all of this has in common, is one person looking at another and seeing a label instead, hating what that label means to them, and harming a person they do not even know.

All of us are capable of this. Bias, explicit and implicit, means that sometimes we look at another person and fail to see humanity. But all of us are also capable of rising above. All of us can look at a person who we are taught to avoid, to diminish, or fear, and instead see a human being. If you look at someone and see a label: black, white, gay, “illegal,” cop… all of us can stop to envision someone in that person’s life who looks at that them and sees everything that matters.

Our country and the communities that make it up are being put under strain right now. Political noise and various agendas threaten to pull us apart at the very moment when we need to come together: together against racism, together against terrorism, together against crime, together against violence. The test of leadership in this hard season is simple: will we be kept together, or driven apart.

This evening at 7 pm I will visit the East Race, a place that brings us all together around the river that binds our City. I invite anyone who rejects violence, prejudice, bias, and hatred to join me there. Later the River Lights will glow red, white, and blue as a tribute to the Americans who have lost their lives this week and a reminder of what they have in common with each other. And the sun will come up tomorrow over a City of South Bend that continues to seek, to strive, to model the values we all share, to be a city of peace and compassion, to make good on the promise of unity through diversity.