Stop blaming Trump and Obama for driving us apart. Divisiveness in America is our own fault. It’s something we choose even though few benefit from setting us against each other. This is not the special province of Democrats. It’s not something created by Republicans or their fringe. Divisiveness in America is a phenomenon created by conflict politics because hatred and anger are much more efficient vehicles for change than unity.
Divisiveness in America: yes, it’s our fault
Our love of a sport with actors who, like those in Hollywood, relish the limelight and our adoration has placed divisiveness in America front and center again. That we shower so much respect on professional athletes is almost as shameful as the displays of the NFL players whose disrespect is based on liberal beliefs about justice that are spread by politics.
This isn’t just about football. Conflict politics means that anything and everything that stirs up divisiveness is fair game. Consider just a few of the things we fight over: immigrant vs. American, rich vs. poor, Christian vs. Muslim, gay vs. straight, minority vs. white, and the root of it all, Democrat vs. Republican.
How many of these examples are exploited by politics? Every single one.
Divisiveness preys on ignorance
Messages like this from Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-LA) create division:
They are taking a knee to protest police officers who kill unarmed African Americans – men and women, adults and children, parents and grandparents – with impunity. They are taking a knee to protest a justice system that says that being Black is enough reason for a police officer to fear for his or her life.1
Do these comments convey the truth? The point is to make us angry. This is where divisiveness in American comes from. It has nothing to do with fixing things, righting wrongs, or mending fences.
How often do police officers kill African American children with impunity? It probably doesn’t happen as often as Washington’s politically ambitious left would have us believe. I doubt that most police officers start their day looking for kids to kill. On some level we have to trust society enough to know, deep down, that this is not something we tolerate on a mass scale.
So why does spreading these kinds of “facts” drive us apart? Because we choose to believe them.
New FBI crime figures: things are better and worse
Division is more politically valuable than the truth. When the truth is inconvenient we ignore it like we did last year with hate crime statistics. That doesn’t mean facts don’t exist to compare to what we believe.
Newly released FBI crime figures for 2016 argue against what we’ve been hearing. Officer-involved justifiable homicides were fewer in 2016 than 2013, 2014, or 2015.2 Where an offender’s race was known, more murders were committed by black or African Americans (6,095) than whites (5,004),3 even though black Americans are only an estimated 13.3% of our population.4
Ironically, given the anger over policing African American communities, the vast majority of arrests were of whites (69.6%). Blacks or African Americans only made up 26.9% of the total.5
What do these numbers mean?
They don’t mean anything without more information, interpretation, interpolation, and more facts that we don’t have. The far right could charge an epidemic of African American killing. The far left could assert an upsurge in coerced murder confessions. There isn’t a politician born who has the time or the resources to understand what is going on with crimes committed by and against race. That’s what makes it so easy to spur divisiveness in American. A few events are a trend. News reports become a nationwide epidemic.
That’s how politics works and what politicians do. The question is what we choose to believe. When we choose division over trusting the basic sanctity of our people, laws, and institutions even with their flaws, then divisiveness becomes our fault.
October 1, 2017: Seeds of divisiveness from San Juan
San Juan, Puerto Rico’s outspoken mayor used the word “genocide” while she vented her dissatisfaction with a very difficult relief effort. The implications of dropping that particular word as part of her tirade against President Trump are pretty obvious. Give it a day or so and watch what Trump’s opposition does with it.
The president is taking lots of heat for responding to Mayor Cruz’s outbursts. He should point out that this is not the first hurricane to devastate a Caribbean island, albeit a broke territory that will be bailed out by bankruptcy. His aggravated response as reported by the Hill6 has a lot more validity than we will ever admit.
1. “Statement from CBC Chairman on Trump, Kaepernick and the NFL.” Congressional Black Caucus. September 25, 2017. https://cbc.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=732, retrieved September 26, 2017.
2. “2016 Crime in the United States. Justifiable Homicide by Weapon, Law Enforcement, 2012-2016.” FBI. https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-5.xls, retrieved September 26, 2017.
3. “2016 Crime in the United States: Expanded Homicide Data Table 2.” FBI. https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-2.xls, retrieved September 27, 2017.
4. “United States Census Bureau.” QuickFacts. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/RHI725216, retrieved September 27, 2017.
5. “2016 Crime in the United States. Arrests.” FBI https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/table-21, retrieved September 26, 7, 2017.
6. Carter, Brandon. “Trump slams Puerto Rico: ‘They want everything to be done for them.’” The Hill. September 30, 2017. http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/353216-trump-criticizes-san-juan-mayors-poor-leadership-during-puerto-rico, retrieved October 1, 2017.