Emotions run deep with issues of race and slavery.
Sadly, many are quick to turn to censorship as the solution against opinions they disagree with. So-called “snowflakes” on college campuses are not the only ones willing to sacrifice fundamental rights of speech in the face of opposing views.
Censorship by authorities is dangerous and ineffective at stamping out dangerous ideas.
However, Dr. Ben Carson recently shared an experience that sheds light on how each of us and our communities can respond to hateful ideas:
“Regarding all of the racial and political strife emanating from the events in Charlottesville last weekend, let me relate a story. Several years ago we bought a farm in rural Maryland. One of the neighbors immediately put up a Confederate flag. A friend of ours who is an African-American three-star general was coming to visit and immediately turned around concluding that he was in the wrong place. Interestingly, all the other neighbors immediately put up American flags shaming the other neighbor who took down the Confederate flag. More recently our home in Virginia along with that of a neighbor was vandalized by people who also wrote hateful rhetoric about President Trump. We were out of town, but other kind, embarrassed neighbors cleaned up most of the mess before we returned.
In both instances, less than kind behavior was met by people taking the high road. We could all learn from these examples. Hatred and bigotry unfortunately still exists in our country and we must all continue to fight it, but let's use the right tools. By the way, that neighbor who put up the Confederate flag subsequently became friendly. That is the likely outcome if we just learn to be neighborly and to get to know each other.”
Carson later added:
“It is sad watching the political pundits arguing about whether President Trump went far enough in condemning the instigators of the violence in Charlottesville. The point of my previous post is that we are falling to the trap of fighting ourselves when we have a much bigger enemy who is reveling in the state of confusion and discord that exist in our country.”
Carson points to what other leaders have turned to when dealing with race in our history.
In a 1957 speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. eloquently said:
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
Prior to that soft-spoken U.S. President Calvin Coolidge, during whose presidency the Ku Klux Klan enjoyed a resurgence of support, summed up his approach to dealing with the Klan noting:
“The only way I know to drive out evil from the country is by the constructive method of filling it with good.”
None of these men are advocating government censorship, perhaps because they recognize that it will not stifle the ideas but engrain bitterness and resentment even deeper within the individual. Rather, discourse and interaction between citizens is this the best way to change the mentality entirely.
Some will pan Dr. Carson’s story, but there’s nothing more powerful than an example of what happens when individual citizens engage and learn from each other.