Is it something in the water, or something in the air? I wonder.
I just watched a television interview between Chris Cuomo (CNN Morning Show host) and James Blake. The interview was startling for the calmness and clarity of thought expressed throughout. Issues were discussed head-on in an attempt to understand them more fully rather than to vilify, denigrate or in any way diminish the principle players.
The issue at hand was the recent refusal of Colin Kaepernick (NFL football player) to stand during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. The reason for discussing this with James Blake is that Blake (a professional tennis player of considerable achievement and reputation) was recently the victim of a violent police takedown that ended up with Blake kissing the pavement while being handcuffed. For the record, Blake had committed no crime. He was simply sitting peacefully on a step with friends. But Blake has coloured skin because he is mixed race, and the arresting officer thought he looked like a man who was wanted.
I, too, must look like some men who are wanted. I do not expect to be wrestled, thrown to the ground and handcuffed for that accident of physical similarity.
Blake did not express anger over his rough, unfair treatment. The issue was quickly resolved and the arresting officer faced disciplinary measures for his excessive use of force.
But the issue that Kaepernick and Blake want white America to realize is that people of colour face this kind of on-going discrimination regularly. They are judged before they are known. They are judged by stereotypes rather than as individuals. Is there something to stereotypes? Are blond women dumb? Are Jews money-grubbers? Are Gypsies thieves and pick-pockets? Are black people violent and criminally inclined? Any of them may fit the stereotype, but you’ll never know unless you know the person as a person before being able to tell such a thing.
Blake did not defend Kaepernick’s choice, nor did he condemn it. That issue will work itself out in time. I hope that no one ends up being physically harmed because of it. It was a statement of solidarity with those who have faced on-going discrimination for simply living their lives in full colour.
As Blake and Cuomo sat on the set discussing the issues in genuine candour and reasonableness, I couldn’t help thinking that this was what I wished U.S. politicians might do. Attack the problems together rather than attack each other and try to get others to hate their opponents. But it seems that hate is in the air for America. Like a disgustingly foul smell, they just can’t seem to get ‘hate’ out of their snoots. And like Wrestlemania or like the latest revenge fantasy movie, too many of these well-armed, on-the-edge folks seem primed to emulate their heroes to express that hate. Uh-huh. This is exactly what ISIL clearly stated, planned for and hoped would happen. Turn Americans against each other in very hateful ways and they will kill themselves. No outside help needed!
Yet I still choose to believe that the numbers of people whose attitudes more closely resemble those of Blake and Cuomo still outnumber the ones whose attitudes resemble those of Trump, and other people who constantly deal in currencies of mistrust and hatred, while disingenuously denying that they are doing so. I don’t know why there are people and organizations who feel that they benefit by turning people against each other, but then I have never sought power either.
Still, to echo the sentiment expressed by Obama in the early going of this election cycle, one has to have faith in the wisdom of the American voting public, that they will consider the issues at hand and they will make the correct choices. One of those important choices should be to get themselves to the polls on voting day and vote!