The images on my television from Ferguson, Mo. and around the country following Monday's grand jury announcement were, to say the least, troubling.
The killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed African American young man, was unjust, and the grand jury's decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson means our thirst for justice will go unquenched.
However, the rioting, violence and destruction that plagued the collective response to this decision are not simply unproductive, but counterproductive to the causes of justice and equality.
We have work to do; all of us. There are classes of citizens in this country who still receive unequal treatment from our public institutions and the individuals who comprise them, a fact that breeds resentment and anger and fear, on all sides. These emotions spiral into a vicious cycle where conflagrations like Monday night's are not only expected but inevitable.
If we want to break this cycle, and in a specific and meaningful way improve relationships between African American communities and law enforcement, the path to positive, sustainable change is not lined with broken windows and tear gas canisters.
Instead we will get there through diligent, thoughtful and persistent efforts from all of us, through the hard work of cooperation and understanding.
Injustice in our world should be met with anger, but if we are to transform our society and its institutions into more just entities, we must first transform our anger into compassion. My prayer is that we can channel these powerful emotions into positive, peaceful and meaningful action.
Rev. Robert Turner, Columbia
The writer is senior pastor of St. John Baptist Church.