Michael Brown was a college-bound, black teenager who no longer has an opportunity to forge a future he could be proud of. He is dead, allegedly killed execution style after a confrontation with a policeman. Darren Wilson is a white police officer, who after six years of blemish-free service to his community, used deadly force to allegedly defend himself in an escalating confrontation with an unarmed teenager. Do you know which version is closer to the truth? The search for justice is always difficult. In the rush for judgment in Ferguson, Missouri, it has become all but impossible.
As coverage of the racial crisis continues, I'm saddened by how far we've strayed from the values that have made America what it is. One such core American value is E Pluribus Unum—out of many one. From our beginning, out of the mix of races and cultures our melting pot has worked to forge one people. We've called ourselves Americans. We may celebrate our unique nationalities, but we're still Americans first.
Lincoln would say, “I don't know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know whathis grandson will be." America has not and never will perfectly live up to this or any value. It took a civil war, hard-fought civil rights legislation, and tumultuous demonstrations to even begin to rid America of the curse of slavery.
But I fear that in America, E Pluribus Unum has given way to E Pluribus Discidium. Discidium is a Latin word meaning division, disagreement, or a tearing apart. The more politicians have used identity politics, the more Americans have emphasized our differences and our "unique" rights. We've put cultural diversity and minority rights on politically correct pedestals. When you add race-baiting leaders and a conflict-loving media, America is now more divided than ever.
Years ago, in the midst of racial tension over the OJ Simpson trial verdict, I shared a five-hour, cross-country flight with Brother Clarence, a 97-year-old black man whose loving presence was both disarming and inspiring.
Brother Clarence was the son of a slave, the last son from his father’s last wife. His father had been freed in Alabama as a child. Asked about his experiences as a young slave, his father refused to talk about it, saying: “Don’t worry about what happened. Be proud that you're free. I never met a man who with a smile on my face and an outstretched hand would not treat me with respect. If they don't, they're not worth knowing anyway.” Brother Clarence confessed that he worried about his great-great-grandchildren, “They’re angry. They don’t want to listen to my advice about smiling or shaking hands.”
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