Trying to find harmony in race discussions

I saw a multi-millionaire NFL quarterback refuse to stand and honor his flag for an entire season because of the supposed oppression it represents. I read a Harvard graduate and successful lawyer list personal experiences that may have been racially fueled and then imply from those that all minorities are hopelessly disadvantaged. I watch commentators who have millions of followers and thriving careers passionately chronicle and revisit injustices committed 60 years ago. I read the ranting social media posts from friends who have jumped on the bandwagon to denounce their country.

I recognize our ancestors’ grave injustices. We all must do so – their failures are self-evident and must be condemned. But name a country or even a geographical location in the world that has a diverse, pluralistic population that does not have a history scarred by humanity’s fallen nature of pitting groups against each other.

There is certainly a residue of a past era that continues to hurt people. Indeed, many of our parents and grandparents suffered through unimaginable discrimination and hate. Yet, we have made progress and continue to advance along the trajectory that was set forth by our Founders to make a more perfect union. My own interracial marriage is a testament to that advancement as well as the success that so many individuals in our country have achieved.

While I know that racism still exists, America’s racial issues are no longer primarily institutional or systemic. And that is why Black Lives Matter and similar organizations or movements are not pushing a national policy or legislative agenda in regards to race relations similar to the indispensable Civil Rights movement.

Rather than stirring up racial tensions by viewing every case of racial injustice as systemic and then pinning it on the entire country, I hope that one day we will view those as unrepresentative of the ideals, intent and feelings of the overwhelming majority of Americans. We should not forget that for every individual case of racism, there are countless examples of racial harmony all around us.

We must continue the challenging and undeniably worthwhile process of racial reconciliation, by empathizing with those who are hurt and listening to their grievances. Yet despite humanity’s tendency towards racism, we have an incredible capacity to love one another. Whatever one’s race may be, it is imperative that before we conclude an action is racially motivated we assume the best of our neighbor, situations, and country.

We have so many issues that divide us as a people. That’s OK. As President Obama reminded us in his farewell address, it is the nature of democracy to have competing ideologies and opinions. In the wake of such a racially contentious 2016, I pray that we will once again stand united when our Colors are presented and “The Star Spangled Banner” played.

For that flag and anthem do not represent one group of people or one deplorable part of our history. It represents all of us. It is bigger than any of us. In the midst of everything that divides us, may we at least find unity in our identity as Americans?

Aaron W. Reep is a writer from the Springfield area.

We should not forget that for every individual case of racism, there are countless examples of racial harmony all around us.

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