OUR VIEW: Circumspection is a virtue

It is inescapable, the unfinished business America has with questions of race.

And for all the talking we have done over so long a period of time, the mistrust, the accusations, the vitriol, seep into the national discussion from all sides, because we still haven’t learned to just get along.

The talking brings us nowhere because when it comes to these matters we are like two people who walked into the same movie theater and came out talking as if they had seen two different movies. In one sense this should not be a surprise, since the life experiences of so many people are different because there are differences in skin color.

In Charlottesville this past weekend one person was killed and nearly a score of others were injured when a car, allegedly driven by a young man who appears to have ties with some neo-Nazi organizations, slammed into a group of peaceful protesters. Because of the protests this past weekend, two Virginia troopers were working up in the sky, part of the effort to monitor the activity at the University of Virginia.

But the tragedy of racial misunderstanding is not limited to Virginia as anybody with an ounce of sense knows. Right here, in Terrebonne Parish, we are awaiting a court decision on a voting rights act case, which will determine whether federal law is violated by at-large elections of state district court judges.

When Judge James Brady hands down his decision in the case of the Terrebonne Parish NAACP versus Jindal there will be plenty of discussion, and some of it is not likely to be pretty. It will amount to the same players on their self-same sides of the discussion. One side will say the other wants too much and the other side will say that they don’t get enough.

One side will say there has been too much attention already paid to ugly history while the other side will say not enough attention has been paid yet.

What is saddest is that who says what on which side will be so predictable. And that is where the fault lies with all of us.

During the recent unpleasantness emanating from Charlottesville the President of the United States became a lightning rod, criticized from people on all sides because he failed to call out white supremacists and neo-Nazis by organizational name and give a round condemnation of their brand of violence specifically. Parting with the wisdom of his advisors, President Trump chose to democratize blame-laying by saying there had been too much violence on all sides.

In the case of Charlottesville that’s not really precise. But the president has demonstrated – and his supporters will agree – that precision in speech is not his strongest suit.

The maelstrom took the national focus away from something that has great potential to harm us all, which is the standoff between the U.S. and North Korea on the matter of nuclear weapons. But that is typical of the attention-deficited national media and should surprise nobody at this point.

By focusing on what the President should have said, or should not have said, we cheapen the core values that are threatened by this behavior in Charlottesville. We allow ourselves to become tools of propagandists left and right, depending on who we are, when we join the throng that seems to best suit our pre-chosen side, rather than thinking for ourselves with what facts we are able to independently gather.

Was the act of driving a car into a crowd of counter-protesters an act of terror? Certainly the effect is that. But little has come from Virginia authorities to indicate whether this was indeed intentional or if it was an accident, a tragic, horrible and ill-timed accident, but an accident nonetheless. Perhaps within the next few days clarity will prevail.

We would urge a circumspect view if the driver was a middle eastern man who displayed the same behavior at any public event, until more was known about his motive. That the driver of the car was in town to protest with one side, while suspicious, is a fact that does not provide enough grist.

As we grapple with our own local questions about race and propriety, let’s do more – on each side – to walk in the other person’s shoes, right to left and left to right. Let’s reach a point here where we can learn to celebrate our differences, rather than assault each other with them.

And let’s pray for peace. In Virginia. In Louisiana. And throughout the world.