I have sat down to write this column at least a dozen times over the last fifteen years. Sometimes I have even made it to the end but upon rereading it I recognize that it just isn’t it and it deservedly goes to the “round file” – the waste can. The issue is so polarized that rational discussion is almost impossible.
Bigotry is a learned behavior. While we tend to think of it in racial or ethnic terms, it is in fact based on the assumption that all members of a group act in the same fashion.
Bigotry finds fertile ground in the natural wariness of animals, including humans, of things that are different. The most villainous in history have promoted bigotry as a means of explaining apparent injustice. Adolph Hitler blamed the Jews for the financial distress of the German working class in post-World War I. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt imprisoned Japanese Americans on the assumption that all Japanese would support Japan at the outbreak of World War II. You can hear echoes of the same bigotry today in America with the hyperbolic screeds of people like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY), Ilham Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Talib (D-MI) as well as the detritus of the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazis. Bigotry takes a more oblique form when people like Democrat presidential contender and former Vice-president Joe Biden presumes that if you are Black you must vote for him. And make no mistake that those Republicans who criticize any form of advantage for minorities practice their own oblique form of bigotry.
The latest instance is the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer with a history of civilian complaints about the use of excessive force, as three other officers participated in holding Mr. Floyd down or holding back others from assisting Mr. Floyd. A video of the incident shows Mr. Floyd begging for air while Mr. Chauvin continued kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
With the release of the video the protests began. And with the commencement of the protests, the professional agitators entered and the rioting began. You can tell this story a hundred times and it never changes. An unarmed black man is killed by police officers and legitimate protests are quickly subsumed by rioters. And that is the point at which the reality of the underlying event – Mr. Floyd’s murder – devolves into political finger pointing. The left condemns the police – all police – as merciless racists and brushes over the atrocities of the rioters. The right condemns the protestors – with little or no distinction between those protesting and those rioting – as lawless subversives hell bent on the destruction of America and brushes over the atrocities of the individual policemen in an effort to support the police generally. Each denies it – the left mouthing platitudes about the police and the right mouthing empathy with the victims of brutality. Neither is serious because they always end bromides by adding “but.” As in, “we express our deepest sympathies for the family of the victim, but nothing excuses the lawlessness of the mobs,” or “we support our men and women in blue, but police abuse cannot be tolerated in any form.”
The politicians, who are ultimately responsible for resolution of this growing divide, have an entirely different agenda. They wish to exploit the division. The Democrats follow the teachings of Saul Alinsky who preached class warfare and militant protests. Most will remember former President Barack Obama’s chief of staff – former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel – stating that the left should never let a crises go to waste. The exploitation of tragedies such as Mr. Floyd’s death is despicable but routine for the leadership of the Democrat Party. The purpose is to draw bright lines between a particular group of people – people whose political support they desire to have or keep – and the rest of the populace. It promotes racial animus and class envy while turning a blind eye to the inevitable violence including human injury and property damage that will ensue. They seize upon every demand without regard to its practicality or its danger. (The latest being calls for defunding the police.) They do it with the full knowledge that it will never be adopted and they will never have to bear responsibility for its irresponsibility.
And the Republicans, noting the success of the left in promoting enthusiasm by division, are equally as bad. They create fear of insurrection rather than focusing on the underlying problems. And they, like their counterparts in the Democrat Party, gloss over the excesses of their supporters while condemning similar conduct on the others side.
The press – supposedly the Fourth Estate – whose legitimacy depends upon holding both sides accountable for their excesses – has abandon any sense of such duty and has instead become the megaphone for the far left. In part it is because those who cannot gravitate to criticizing those who can. In part it is because those values are taught without opposition in the journalism schools of most universities – again by those who cannot and who must find an excuse for their failures. And most importantly because they know they bear no responsibility for their irresponsibility. I confess to my own bigotry as in my description of the media but these are instances where people choose their group as opposed to those who are born into it. I know full well that not all journalists are as stupid as Chris Cuomo (CNN) who asked:
“Please show me where it says protestors are supposed to be polite and peaceful.”
But the frequency of this type of blind support for causes embraced by the far-left renders them part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
And the beat goes on.
This is the point at which I arrive each time I have sat down to write about it. How do you solve the problem of racial division when the very people who are responsible for its resolution are the people fanning the flames of division because it benefits their longevity in power? How do you heal the divisions when the only instruments for accomplishing that healing are in the hands of those who benefit from encouraging the divisions?
The solutions are not that difficult in concept but are nearly impossible in implementation because of the politicians. Methods need to be adopted by the police to weed out the bigots and bullies and the “blue wall of silence” needs to end when it comes to that bigotry. Protestors have to dedicate themselves to the examples of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King – peaceful protest in the form of civil disobedience. I’ll try to paraphrase the comments of an African American civil rights leader who I listened to over the weekend*:
“It is not the violence of a protest but rather the length and strength of the protest that affects change.”
We can forget about a solution from Congress. Focus instead on local communities and implement these two changes – new standards for the police and old standards for civil disobedience – not either/or but both. It’s one step at a time but we can arrive at the necessary destination. Smaller communities where there is a higher degree of community trust can lead the way.
And while we cannot expect a solution from Congress, we should not forget that they are a significant part of the problem. Their leaders and their camp followers need to go. Term limits will never occur as a constitutional amendment but term limits at the ballot box are available every two years.
*I searched the internet for a reporting of those comments and the name of the speaker but since they suggested a solution rather than inflaming the problem, the media failed to report them.