I’m inclined to believe that most of you reading this feel similarly to me. You are feeling a lot of mixed anger at what is occurring in our major cities. The death of George Floyd is absolutely an unnecessary tragedy. I remember surveying my fellow soldiers and friends in the police department regarding their take on how ex-police officer Derek Chauvin handled the arrest of Mr. Floyd.
Every single one of them reacted with disgust and anger at his poor judgment. I remember thinking how their consensus would convey to the public a shared outrage. Instead the poor judgment of the one became the justification for the poor judgment of the many. I have witnessed media coverage that fosters division in our country by giving voice to those that justify the destruction of public and private property in the name of a poorly supported concept that African Americans are under attack by the police. On the contrary I would like to argue that at the core of these riots is the lack of historical understanding in American youth.
I believe these younger Americans have failed to dig a little deeper into American history and, specifically the evolution of race relations in America. These younger Americans have not learned to view America from a broader lens. Have you ever caught yourself in an argument with someone and you realized you used a statement like, “You always! You never!” It is so simple to box someone in with terms like these because in the heat of the argument that always/never item is the focus of the angry feelings we have.
It is easy to say America suffers from systemic racism, that America was founded on slavery, that America only cares about capitalism and making money and America does not care about the poor. Statements like these are like the statements we make when we are angry at our spouse or a friend and we lash out with unsupported generalities. It may make us feel good for the moment but it does little to foster a better relationship for the future.
Think about this for a moment. What if everyone around you focused just on those events in your life when you fumbled instead of looking at you in more broad terms? America has many sins, with slavery and racism at its most egregious, but how has America matured broadly? To be even more specific, how have the police departments throughout America changed over time? Have any of these rioters noticed the diversity in the ranks of the police or National Guard that they attack verbally and physically? Have any of these rioters noticed the countless good deeds these police officers have done collectively?
I’m old enough to see how America has rapidly evolved regarding race relations. I have noticed this especially in what we all see daily. Have these rioters noticed how diverse movies, television shows, and the media are in America? America has made incredible strides in diversity and equality yet for some reason America’s progress is not spotlighted as a method for inspiration; rather, the focus is on generalities that fuel division.
I’m fond of saying that America is the perfect imperfection because America is the best example of a nation that strives for greatness and fosters freedom for all, for all colors and all races. Has America done this equally for all throughout its history? Absolutely not. But can each rioter say he or she has been perfectly equitable in his or her life?
Obviously not for their action, which are destroying the livelihoods of countless hard-working Americans. I would rather live in a nation that at its core contains a system of checks and balances. A system that over time has proven it can indeed overcome. These riots will end, business will recover, but we must remember if we do dot not foster a balanced view of American history in our youth, we will only produce more division.
Mr. Sanders is commander of American Legion Post 803 in Southold. He also serves as a Town Assessor.