By Sam Madden
The election of Donald Trump exploded the division in this country, it wrecked civil discourse on a scale that wasn’t even seen, (but was brewing) during the Obama Administration, and the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement. The division keeps rolling downhill like a snowball. We are seeing more violence at rallies, free speech being shut down, and it seems that every group and every person has dug in their heels so much to their position, they are not willing to give even an inch to someone that may have a different opinion.
Which brings us to the latest debate across the country, the history of slavery, racism and the confederacy in the United States.
The history of the United States is important, just as any country’s history. Humanity has and continues to evolve. In its’ thinking and its’ processes. We can look at any country and see shameful periods of yesteryear for the descendants of today. The Roman Empire, Britain with the genocide’s against Natives, Australian Aboriginals, Tasmanians, Kenyans, and several man-made famines in India that killed over 10 million, the Apartheid in South Africa. The list is endless.
So what are we to do as a Nation? Continue to let our emotions run amok? Tear down every thing and every person or group we see as a threat to what we may believe or stand for?
The debate has included renaming of schools that are named after confederate generals, people in our history that are considered to be racist during their time, even Christopher Columbus and Abraham Lincoln are being put on the chopping block on some level. George Washington and Andrew Jackson are also under fire, as parks bearing their name are bringing the ire of those which do not want even one sliver of a piece of our history regarding slavery in the public square, no matter the monumental achievements of our founding fathers. Even Faneuil Hall in Boston and Fort Hood in Texas are being targeted. Faneuil Hall is named after Peter Fanueuil, who had ties to slavery. Fort Hood is named after General John Bell Hood, a confederate general.
All of our heads should be collectively spinning at this point. We need to slow down and think before we act. Knee-jerk reactions seldom turn out good. Another question is why now? Why didn’t this happen during the Obama Adminstration, or even before that?
At the Center for Pluralism, we believe we have at least some partial answers, and also if not specific solutions, at least some ideas to help bring this country together and to bring back civil discourse.
First off most importantly we must Stop, Think, Look and Listen! The knee-jerk reactions of some Universities and Mayors to cover or bring down statues in the middle of the night to be hauled away, is not going to solve the divisions we are experiencing. No matter how many Confederate Statues are taken down, no matter how many parks and schools are re-named, it is only treating the symptom and not the cause.
As Herman Cain states:
“I am an African-American. I hate the institution of slavery as much as Bishop Dukes does. But I have noticed something he seems to have missed. I am not a slave! And neither is he.
Slavery was an awful historical injustice, and it helped set in motion many of the problems the black community faces today. But it is not the problem we need to solve today. Those problems are poverty, illiteracy, drugs, crime and violence.”
I am sure not everyone will agree with Mr. Cain’s statement. But the most important thing is that we must talk to each other to understand why. We must have open civil dialogue with each other, be empathic to others’ positions, their ideals, in a constructive way. Not in a way that divides us further.
Mayor Mike Rawlings of Dallas is doing just that. He has appointed a task force regarding the confederate statues in the City of Dallas. He is also accepting public input. He states:
“It is critical that we go about this process in a way that makes our city more united. Let’s use this opportunity to listen from one another and to make our city stronger!”
Some argue that we can still learn history from books so we don’t need these statues, from an adult perspective that is probably true, but not from a child’s perspective. A child learns more by seeing and visiting. Discussing with their parents, mentors and teachers. The impact of a child seeing a statue and asking questions can give more learning to that child than any book.
Then we also have the question of the artistic value of these statues. Most were exquisitely done. Most aspiring artists would be well to study, (and many already do), the details, the contrast, etc.
So here we are tearing down statues because of our unhappiness in this country. Once we tear down all these statues, rename schools, buildings, and parks, will we have a better life? Will poverty go away in the inner city? Will the violence in Chicago and Baltimore go away? Will Trump not be President anymore?
We will be back to square one. Still with racial tensions, tensions between political parties, and the tension felt by many from Trump being elected.
This doesn’t mean that all confederate statues should remain where they are, it means before we make any rash decisions let’s all Stop, Think, Look and Listen!
Listening to each other no matter our race, our party affiliation, who we voted for, and coming up with constructive solutions for this country will be the only thing that helps this country move forward and bring us together. This includes a constructive way to deal with our history of slavery and racism, which extends outside the confederacy to Abraham Lincoln and beyond.
Sam Madden is a board member, representative and consultant for the Center For Pluralism. He can be reached at Sam@centerforpluralism.com