By: Jonathan S. Hogue ~Opinions & Editorials Editor~
The state of our political affairs frightens and saddens me. Today, we have individuals running for office who call Mexicans rapists, threaten to “carpet bag” nations and ban a religious group for the cause of “taking America back.” Especially with the backdrop of Black History Month, a time for the nation to reflect on issues of divisiveness, Americans have turned their back on true social progress.
Growing up, I often heard stories about my grandfather who marched with Dr. King. He was imprisoned for three days after the march in Selma because he believed his personhood should be respected in the place he called home. As a continuation of his work, I march in solidarity with the marginalized, but I fear others are not following suit.
In the U. S., a complacent majority is a dangerous one. Americans, at times, act as entitled, privileged kids who take their personal liberties for granted. While we argue if global warming is real or not, millions of people around the world lose their homes to rising sea levels. We profess anger about underemployment, but we fail to witness the deliberate work done by our government to suppress economic progress in other parts of the world. Most daunting is the love of political equality abroad, while people fail to put words into action at home.
An example of majority complacency can be seen in Ferguson. Recently, the Department of Justice sued the city for its failure to reform unfair laws.
“Residents of Ferguson have suffered the deprivation of their constitutional rights — the rights guaranteed to all Americans — for decades,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said.
The Ferguson City Council could have reformed its measures, but it used the scapegoat of budgetary issues to side-step the problem.
Instances like Ferguson are popping up across the electorate. We allow injustice to pervade our civic institutions leaving the marginalized vulnerable and the majority powerful. People may find Donald Trump’s comments on Mexicans or Ted Cruz’s carpet bag rhetoric entertaining, but the fact is they are fueling a hate-filled movement in this nation that the majority is complacent of.
The Southern Policy Center reported that in 2014 America saw a near 10 percent rise in hate groups. They believed the carnage witnessed in the Planned Parenthood or San Bernardino shootings would have calmed hate speech, but “unfortunately, the carnage did little to dissuade some political figures from spouting incendiary rhetoric about minorities. In fact, they frequently exploited the anger and polarization across the country for political gain.”
Why does this happen? Complacent Americans ignore it and pretend to move on.
As someone who has felt the sting of discrimination, you never move on without scars. My grandparents, while strong in their will and determination, would recount numerous stories of lost opportunities due to race. I have gay and lesbian family members who are limited in places to live and work in the U.S. because as Hillary Clinton said, “You can be married on Saturday and fired on Monday” for being different. There are numerous individuals who remain in the shadows because pervasive hate dominates the public sphere.
Where do we go from here? Well, once you see hate, you root it out. With the rise of tailored news outlets and Facebook Like buttons, we have created worlds that tell us what we want to hear instead of the truth.
Time said it best, “What hasn’t changed?” Our ability to stop, look, listen and react.
I hope each and every one of you take the time to think about the words and actions you use. Being a decent human being is not hard. All it requires is that you use your words properly, understand others’ limitations and respect the decency of others.
I hope this will come to define the rest of Black History Month and beyond.