When it comes to racial tensions, there are leaders and there are cowards. There are cynical instigators seeking personal gain, and there are wise voices of reason seeking a better society.

These thoughts are in my mind this weekend as I survey a troubled landscape. On the one hand is what is going on in the governor’s race in Virginia. It is disgusting and dangerous. The Republican candidate, Ed Gillespie, is a man who should know better. But he is running a despicable campaign of stoking fear around immigrants and race, playing to base fears and echoing the toxic rhetoric of President Trump. Gillespie was an establishment Republican who has decided he will summon the ghosts of the Confederacy and greatly misrepresent (more accurately lie about) his opponent’s record. This may prove a successful tactic in the upcoming election. Fear sells, especially in the short run. We shall see. But even some of Gillespie’s former GOP allies are marking his descent into bigotry for what it is – a stain on his character and a moral millstone around the long-term reputation of the Republican Party.

In very different news, there was a flare-up around race in last night’s World Series game, where Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel was caught on camera making a racist gesture and using a spanish slur for Asians after hitting a home run of off Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish, who hails from Japan. Gurriel apologized fully and will be suspended for 5 games next season, but what struck me was the statement from Darvish:

“No one is perfect. That includes both you and I. What he had done today isn’t right, but I believe we should put our effort into learning rather than to accuse him. If we can take something from this, that is a giant step for mankind. Since we are living in such a wonderful world, let’s stay positive and move forward instead of focusing on anger. I’m counting on everyone’s big love.” -Yu Darvish, pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers

In all of my years covering civil rights, this is one of the most gracious and helpful statements I have read. It is in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And the response and conversation that this helped spark is bringing us together as a nation, rather than what we are seeing on the political level.

Meanwhile, another article I read in ESPN talked about how the NFL owners, the commissioner, and player representatives are sitting down with each other and listening, to try to understand the controversy over the national anthems protest. And there has been some remarkable progress.

Each of us has a decision to make, especially those in leadership or before the public eye. Do we succumb to intolerance? Do we refuse to listen to the voices of others? Do we play with the easy currency of fear? Or do we recognize that the only future worth a damn for our country, and our world, is to try to get along?