How America uses history will define its future

Charlottesville brought the inconvenient underbelly of our nation into the light. The roots of this reality run deep. Just as President Trump's own bigotry existed far before he occupied the White House, the hatred and racism promoted by White Nationalists, the Ku Klux Klan, and neo-Nazis lived on after The Civil War, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement — and yes, even during the presidency of Barack Obama, a moment some like to pretend signaled a "post-racial America."

On a more personal level, as a person of color, the tragic and violent events in Charlottesville revealed an ugliness I've known since 1990 when, at 5 years old, a fellow kindergartener greeted me as "chink." Filled with anger, I hit him. Our school principal punished both of us, because there was fault on "both sides."

Last year, Democratic ad campaigns worked hard to remind voters about Donald Trump's lack of character, dignity, and respect. They conveyed shame. Their narratives guilt the viewer with moralistic messages such as "Our children are watching." Post-election, critics called the ads ineffective. They asserted their focus on Trump's character failed to persuade undecided voters and only reinforced preexisting views of entrenched voters.

Today, it only requires a scroll through the comments section on Facebook, YouTube or Twitter to experience the same hatred, racism, and bigotry from Charlottesville. The people who defend President Trump are grandparents, parents, teachers, and coaches. And these people not only know their children are watching, but they're proud of what they see.

54 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed his concerns on the pathway to progress in "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." He wrote,

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice.

In 2017, people who stand against justice may not all attend torch-lit rallies. Yet, their devotion and defense of a President who fails to comprehend the very "law and order" he calls out, speaks to a widening gap in our Nation. This divide isn't about Democrat or Republican; it's about the principles that will shape our country for generations to come.

For some people, our history reveals many wounds that require healing. For others, our history serves as a fully-loaded arsenal to rationalize their own discrimination.

In the words of Deepak Chopra, "Ask [yourself] if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future."


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