Dispatch from the Editor: Why can’t we all just get along?

After last week’s column, in which I discussed the ongoing racial justice protests and suggested that now is the time for schools in Lewiston and Nezperce to do away with their stereotyped Native American mascots, a reader left me a voice message telling me my “racism was showing.” 

Not everyone understands what racism is.

Pointing out societal disparity is not an act of violence against whites. Despite the fact that the Nez Perce Tribe, and other tribes in the state, have asked majority-white state and local school boards to ban or remove Native American mascots from their schools, officials have not done so. 

Many people claim they don’t see skin color; instead they choose to see character. By maintaining one doesn’t see race, that individual can also avoid seeing the ways racism is perpetuated. 

Racism is a system in which a dominant race benefits from the oppression of others, whether they are conscious of it or not. Crying “racism” against whites when issues of inequality or injustice come up is a way of evading the complexities required in a true give-and-take discussion. 

Accusations, name calling and angry-face emojis dominate lots of conversations these days, to our country’s detriment. The caller ended his voice message by telling me that he would be voting this fall for the people that I wanted in office so that I could see how terrible things could really get in our country. I am not sure what offices or officials he was referring to, since I have never met this man or discussed my voting preferences with him. He made an array of assumptions about me, which is where most of us are going wrong these days: We think if someone doesn’t think like us, they must be against us. Too many people have decided that anyone with an opposing opinion is being deliberately insensitive and biased.

Like most mothers, I’m familiar with this behavior. One child’s shifting in tight quarters causes the other to claim pain was inflicted on purpose, leading the parent to ask, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Getting along requires a more neutral mindset when considering another person’s motives. This may be difficult for a child but is certainly within the realm of possibility for an adult.

I didn’t realize it when I first wrote this column, but an editor pointed out that “Can we all get along?” is what Rodney King said in a televised news conference in 1992 in response to rioting that broke out in Los Angeles after four officers were acquitted of beating him. A bystander videotaped the graphic incident, and it was witnessed by millions. Today those words adorn King’s grave marker.  

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