By New York Times Best Selling Author Michael Levin
The thug disguised as a police officer who committed murder in Minneapolis does not speak for me.
The rioters on the streets of dozens of American cities, destroying valuable property, from shopping malls to synagogues, also do not speak for me.
So who does?
I am not a racist and neither are most Americans or most police officers.
I am not a destroyer of property and neither are most Americans.
Chances are, you are just as appalled by what happened in Minneapolis, and what has happened in American cities and in some other places around the world, as I am.
So who speaks for us?
I resent the implication that if I’m not torching police cars, I am cosigning the actions of a bad cop.
I equally resent the implication that my attitudes toward race can be divined simply by looking at the color of my skin.
When it comes to race, it seems that we Americans have lost the plot.
There was a time, not that long ago, when we had begun to move toward a society where people judged each other as individuals, by the content of their character, in Dr. King’s words.
And somehow that morphed into a new kind of racism, where assumptions are made that if you’re white, you think this way, if you’re Black, you think that way, if you’re straight, if you’re gay, and so on.
When did we move from striving for color-blindness to living in a world where color and other forms of identity trump individual thinking?
The academy and social media deserve much of the blame.
College students are being taught to see life through a prism of race, “gender,” and sexuality, as if you could define a human being in all of his or complexity by a few key tests.
You can’t shorthand people.
And yet, my visits to college campuses over the last ten years have indicated that the young are taught to view themselves and others almost entirely in terms of race, sexual identity, and so on.
We used to be people.
Now we’re items in categories.
And then what kids learn in college makes it way into the workplace, as they graduate and get jobs, and then into the culture, through the shorthanding of ideas that occurs in social media.
And now we live in a world where interactions between people of different opinions, colors, religions or lack thereof, and sexual identity are rooted in distrust, cynicism, and outright hatred.
In the musical South Pacific, there was a groundbreaking song about racism called “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught.”
In other words, racism and hatred are not built into us from birth.
They are learned behaviors.
And in my lifetime, we recognized the folly of such bigoted thinking and we began to move toward a society where people were accepted as individuals and not judged as members of groups.
A far from perfect society, but a better society.
As Dr. King said, the arc of of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
And then things went the other way.
The thug in a cop’s uniform who committed murder last week was carefully taught to believe certain things about race.
The thugs in Gap jeans and Lululemon tops rampaging through our cities and destroying parts of an already fragile economy were carefully taught that annihilation and rage are appropriate responses to behavior of which they disapprove.
Neither of those kinds of people speaks for me.
Or, I would think, for you.
Or for who are trying to be, fitfully, agonizingly, as a just society.
I am not a racist, or one who condones rogue cops, or a rioter.
They are not America.
This is not a society of blind hate.
We have come too far.
We took a wrong turn.
We allowed our children to be carefully taught to hate, and we are reaping that whirlwind.