by Mark Antony Rossi
The Great Democratic Experiment that is America is in historic jeopardy. The enormous legislative strides Americans made as a country (and at the cost of many lives I must add) are now being rolled back one by one. The cause of stopping racism and reforming policing are moral imperatives that continue to get sidetracked by organizations with dubious agendas and by prominent individuals beset by bad decision and horrible marketing to ever successfully get across their core universally-accepted message: Stopping Racism; Reforming Policing.
In the past few years American sports has been interrupted by well-meaning individuals seeking to bring more awareness to police brutality and racism. Fixing these matters are moral objectives I believe critical to operating a free and fair society. But the athlete’s methods were and are unacceptable. To kneel at the National Anthem is deeply disrespectful to the country as a whole and military veterans in particular. By making this practice a repeat offense these athletes ruined any real chance of including the rest of society to seriously investigate how as a nation we can intelligently reform policing and vigorously reduce racism.
It still boggles my mind that millionaire athletes (very few are victims of these illegal police stops) most who reside in communities where the majority of residents do not look like them – have not pooled their enormous resources and media outreach for a national campaign to change laws and minds about police brutality. America needed video public service announcements; not disrespectful kneeling. America needed Congressional hearings on that subject; not blanket indictments of police officers. We got none of that. What we got was anger, disrespect and a change of conversation from police brutality to America bashing. Nothing was accomplished other than all sides of the legitimate argument now angry about something else. On perhaps one of the most important issues (Racial Equality) of our time we got the worst marketing campaign (Angry Kneeling) in the history of the United States.
Another tragedy took place with a detained black man and reckless police officer who did not act according to law, decency or common sense. He stepped on arrested and handcuffed man’s neck (George Floyd) for nearly nine minutes until the man died. During the backdrop of a nation in crisis due to Covide-19, America had a situation where millions of citizens were out of work and now additionally angry that they were targets of rogue cops. Protests broke out in many major cities of the United States. Peaceful protests about vital social matters are hallmarks of a free society. Unfortunately, most of these protests turned violent with looting of stores (ironically, a number owned by black Americans) burning of buildings and stores, even the takeover of police stations. None of these illegal actions were warranted and have zero relationship with Racism or Police Brutality. Stealing a TV from a store is not going to bring cultural bonding. Burning down buildings are acts of domestic terrorism – again not activities helpful in moving America forward.
Now that the protests have simmered America is under attack by hordes of statue topplers who believe anyone and everyone they deem racist from the past must be removed from the public eye. It first started with Confederate military and historical figures from our Civil War, one hundred and fifty-nine years ago. An honest debate was called for but none was ever had. To destroy public property in the name of social justice is not civil disagreement – it is rather akin to anarchy. Meetings could have been set and even televised. Votes cast and funds set aside to bring “offensive’ statues inside a museum and teach accurately whom these American citizens were in the place of history — then and now. Instead we allow thugs acting like Soviet communist fanatics to being erasing history from our purview. This dangerous practice had a corrosive social effect on Russia life and society decades after the fall of Communism. The late Golda Meir reminded us that “One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.”
Corporations, whom nearly always, act in their own interests, started changing brands deemed racist, Aunt Jemina & Mrs Buttersworth (slave cooks) Uncle Ben (house slave), Mr. Clean (Caribbean hotel worker) Land O’Lakes (removed Native American woman from packaging),
Cream of Wheat (blackface), Dixie Beer (removed Dixie due to slave connotation), the music groups Dixie Chicks and Lady Antebellum (changed names for same slave connotations). What America needs and has needed for the past fifty-five years is a national dialogue on how to begin to understand one another. But instead we get window dressing (soulless brand changing), riots and looting (mindless anger), toppling statues (senseless history deletion), attempts to defund police and replace with social workers (dumbest idea I ever heard in my life) and robotic kneeling (a defeatist routine). None of this litany of toothless tactics will change anything in my country accept frighten people who honestly thought America accomplished a great deal to bring our Republic closer to King’s influential “I have a Dream Speech” where he references the biblical passage regarding a City on a Hill.
Instead I living in a country that corrected its racist laws and made it a freer society for citizens of color than anywhere on the planet Earth but hasn’t really taken the moral and personal steps necessary for cultures to learn from each other and eventually like each other. America passed the laws and it sadly seems we went back to our corners and talk to each other now and then at work and at athletic events. Never knowing each other. Never really trusting each other. The fact remains America has needed a court-like national dialogue similar to the South African “Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is only then can we bridge the hurt and start the healing process necessary to make the nation whole. Our reliance on organizations that are hostile to capitalism or engage in bigotry towards other minority groups is futile and only leads to more division and further away from the day we can finally live up to the ideals in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Until that blessed day, I must remain vigilant as I raise two young boys in a society that increasingly labels and targets people for skin color. As I write this article there are forces who want to turn back the clock. Who want to re-engage separation in society and thus erase past historic victories that intended fairness and equality. Who might start creating a cultural distancing where people will not interact much anymore for fear of offense or oppression or whatever new term is being used to describe what is essentially giving up on reconciliation and instead opting for isolation. Will America subsidize racial separation? And if so, how will this increase our odds on learning and growing stronger together as a united country? The future is deeply concerning to me because as an Italian-American, civil rights mattered dearly in our household as did our pride in Christopher Columbus. I grew up in a melting pot community of various races, cultures and religions. I played with kids of all backgrounds. When older I dated girls of different backgrounds. I served my country in the military during peace and wartime right along many of those same kids who became adults and true brothers in arms for a common cause.
After I completed my tour of duty, I was invited to join a well-known connected social organization but I declined because they refused to admit women and blacks. I played by the rules. I treated people respectfully and often wrote articles, essays on plays on bringing people together. My play “Thief in the Night’ was produced Off Broadway with an entire African-American cast as I originally wrote and intended it. I served in local city government and supported minority owned business to get contracts, insured senior African Americans had access to retirement housing and additional healthcare, supported community policing and advocated for business zones that improved the livelihoods of various ethnic-owned establishments. As inconvenient or disconcerting as this may sound you – I haven’t done anything to fail America. I accessed its Dream and helped others to do the same. Yet for the first time in life I feel America is starting to fail me. The cultural divide should have been solved decades ago. And I only hope and pray my children can survive our inattention to reality. You can’t live on a bumper sticker. And I have little faith in an impatient generation willing to erase history and ignore all I, and millions like me, worked hard to build: a more perfect union.