Even at a funeral, dividing the nation is apparently good politics
© Greg Nash

We are never going to be able to meaningfully and effectively address racial issues in this country until we take away the politics and politicians who ultimately benefit from our chaos.

Some even instigate it, a dark side of emerging American politics on both sides of the aisle.

On Tuesday, during the memorial service for the five murdered Dallas police officers, President Obama began the speech eloquently. But it sadly once again became a political dividing tool when he made the absolutely outrageous statement that teenagers can get a hold of a Glock more readily than a book or a computer.

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Harmony, brief as it was, immediately became a social media free-for-all. He just could not help make it about his political beliefs with a whopper of a lie. Has he never heard of a library? Did he think politics really belonged at a memorial service? With an entire nation grieving and watching an entire city and police force grieving in front of him, for some odd reason, he felt the need to go there.

Someone should have reminded him he was not speaking at a campaign rally. There is a time and place for politics. A funeral service to help heal racial divides is not the time or the place to stoke political divides.

In short, we are letting the race hucksters make a three ring circus of our lives, our communities and our relationships with each other and we have become willingly audience members pinned to our sides to exit from the show.

Civil Rights icon Bob Woodson has little respect for the Black Lives Matter provocateurs. He finds them morally bankrupt, whose only determination seems to be fifteen minutes of shame rather than concrete resolutions to problems.

“I would never equate one moment of the Civil Rights movement to anything that BLM has orchestrated,” he said.

“They are no different than the Black Panthers,” he said of the often violent Black Nationalist party that thrived in the 60’s until the early 80’s.

“The protests we in the Civil Rights movement were involved in during the sixties were generally against a recognized evil. Both blacks and whites were unanimous that there were concrete and specific targets they wanted to resolve, such as people denied access to an apartment building, a company not hiring blacks, a fire department that was all white. The targets were clear, there was a moral consensus during those protests that this was wrong and that it needed to be changed,” he said.

Woodson said the protests he was involved with beginning in 1964 only followed after there were attempts to negotiate, “They were always civil, we cooperated with the police and in turn they protected us,” he said.

“When we got threats from the Ku Klux Klan, it was the police who protected us.”

What we have going on today with BLM is unhelpful, it is not solutions oriented and it drives a wedge between whites and blacks that has not existed for a generation.

Woodson said, “I think people in power in both the left and right are profiting from this divide; because the left can use it politically and so can the right. The left can use it to turn out the base and the right can use it to turn out voters who would not normally vote for them but do out of fear,” he said.

"Some of us who have standing as civil rights people need to have a voice," said Woodson; "The media always gives a camera and a microphone to the disruptors but not the people who are trying to find solutions."  

“We need to get these hustling black preachers out of the way, and give voice to people like the Dallas police chief. That is someone who is showing leadership,” he said.

Everything in the news is about black and white, everything on social media is about black and white, everything in the political power structure is about black and white, it is disgraceful.

Being American isn’t about titles and hyphens and otherness. Yet the media and politicians stroke it, because they either make money from it or win elections because of it.

It creates an invisible tension between regular people who aren’t involved in either movement, because people are immersed in it everywhere they go said Woodson, “It’s inescapable.”

Woodson doesn’t just blame BLM for inflaming racial tensions. “Look at what Fox News is doing," he said. "It is what pisses me off with conservative broadcasters; they will have on Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and then Bill O’Reilly and Laura Ingraham become the foil,” he said.

“In short, the face of opposition to BLM is O’Reilly and Ingraham,” Woodson said.

“Fox should not be using Sharpton or Jackson or these other race hucksters," he said. "All they are doing is continuing the divide and I am forced to conclude that some people on the right have begun forming their own grievance industry in reaction to BLM,” Woodson said.

Woodson points to the Drudge Report as one; “All they are doing is talking about ‘let’s take our country back.’ What the hell does that mean? It means the same thing as BLM, as far as I am concerned. It is a slogan void of content, with strong innuendo’s,” he said.

One week after two fatal shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota inspired outrage in American streets and inspired an Army veteran to use a BLM protest to execute 5 police officers and injure 9, calls for reform have been muzzled by protests and promises by BLM that the outrage will continue.  

Until we stop letting politics and politicians manipulate race relations in this country – the chaos that we see play out every night on social media or on the news networks is going to not only continue, but escalate to place that we may never recover from.

“We're getting to the point where everyone in American society thinks they're the victim of a war on their group by someone else,” said Tom Nichols, professor at the Naval War College. “The people leading Black Lives Matter, as well as the people responding that all lives matter, are playing on that paranoia to motivate racial voting blocks in their favor,” he said.

Nichols says that blacks and whites now each believe they're an endangered species, which, he says, is just fine with the racial hucksters — including people like Trump on one side, and some of the BLM extremists on the other — who are using this for their own political gain said Nichols.

“I come from a family of cops, if that matters. I don't see a war on cops any more than I see a war on black men,” he said.

There are bad cops, and there are predatory men victimizing black neighborhoods. If you're deciding which side to be on based solely on race, you're already part of the problem. But the people trying to tear us apart have many of us convinced that racial solidarity matters more than the safety of everyone, whether cops or civilians.

Before that happens, we have to be honest with ourselves as communities, said Nichols, “Whites and blacks are losing the ability to talk in good faith because they're too busy defending insanely absolute positions: that cops are murderers, or that cops are never wrong. They have to let go of that, but it's hard when race-baiters demand absolute tribal loyalty on both sides,” he said.

What is the solution then? It appears that both Nichols and Woodson who come from very different life experiences have come to the same solution: get the glory hounding politicians and activists who just want to yell and scream, but offer no concrete solutions, out of the way. All they want to do is profit from the chaos.

Then, let everyone catch their breath and start being honest with themselves about the messy realities involved. What America has lacked consistently for the past few years is leadership in uncertain times from both political parties. As both Woodson and Nichols concluded, both parties have, in fact, instigated and benefited from the divide.

Our impulses as a people are more naturally aligned with the words, values and attitude of Dallas police chief David Brown; “Become a part of the solution…” he said directly to the BLM protestors, “We’re hiring. Get off that protest line and put an application in. And we’ll put you in your neighborhood, and we’ll help you resolve some of the problems you’re protesting about.”

That is what leadership looks and sounds like — not black or white, not blaming or finger points, not political; but solutions based, one person, one community at a time.

Zito is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review editorial page columnist. Contact her at szito@tribweb.com.