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Taking the Easy Way Out Regarding Bigotry

Lift that large, flat rock or piece of old roofing tin you find at an overgrown old farmstead out in the woods and you probably will see all sorts of creepy-crawly things trying to scurry away from the light. You may even expose a copperhead or rattlesnake.

That’s why, for many generations, we Americans haven’t really engaged in that “conversation” about bigotry that we keep urging ourselves to have. We’re afraid of what we might see.

We prefer instead to demand that our governments at all levels do something about bigotry. Pass a new fair housing law. That’ll do it. Establish diversity offices at colleges and universities. That’s the ticket!

No, it isn’t.

Much of the demonstrators’ anger at government regarding George Floyd’s murder was justified, of course. Why on earth did it take Minneapolis authorities so long to arrest and charge Derek Chauvin and the other three ex-cops who aided and abetted him? When police recognize a bank robber from a surveillance video, do they wait days to find and slap the cuffs on him?

But all four of the ex-officers have been arrested and charged, now. The protest marches demanding action can cease. They continue, as if participants have decided they have to do something about bigotry.

Something other than actually addressing it head-on, that is.

A side note, here: Bigotry at its heart is stereotyping people. Let’s not equate the vast majority of demonstrators in the streets with the rioters — some from anarchist groups and others simply seizing the opportunity to get that new flat-screen TV they’ve been wanting.

Here in Wheeling, the difference was made clear Tuesday, when organizers of a demonstration that had been scheduled for noon canceled it, after hearing of social media claims (unfounded, it turned out) that troublemakers in buses were headed for the city. The local folks wanted nothing to do with the villains.

All sorts of talking points are available to those who want to discuss Floyd’s death, protest marches and rioting. Some of the arguments, on both sides, are valid.

But they all miss the point: We’re not willing to have an honest, objective discussion about bigotry. Let me give you an example:

Was Derek Chauvin’s behavior motivated by racism?

Aha, you react. Another “denier.”

Not at all. Perhaps Chauvin was just a mean cop with a vicious attitude toward everyone. All the more reason to get details of the 18 or so other complaints lodged against him during his career.

And speaking of stereotyping, how can we have a productive talk about bigotry with the overwhelming majority of good men and women who are cops — if we accuse all or even many of them of being racists? If you were a cop dedicated to serving and protecting, would you want to talk to someone accusing you of being evil?

We haven’t been willing to turn over the rock — and despite all the protests, there’s no indication that has changed.

Really doing something about bigotry is harder than chanting while we march down the street or blaming someone in government. Until we change our own intellectually lazy attitude, we’re not going to change any bigots.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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