As America grapples with a crisis of inequality, debate needs to be open, not closed

Identifying the remains of systemic racism that were largely addressed by the civil rights movement has in many ways discouraged an honest and open conversation. Many attempts to discuss objective data or examine the specific problems that have led to social unrest have been stifled. Harper's "Letter on Justice and Open Debate" and Barry Weiss' resignation from the New York Times are two examples of left-leaning perspectives that recognize the problem created by the far left's narrative. It's a problem that limits free-flowing conversations about the extremely complicated topic of racial inequality, and inequality in general.

The existence of inequality is a problem that has existed long before the entirety of civilization. But not all inequality equates to inequity. And it's important to distinguish between the two. We are all born with advantages and disadvantages — many of which are out of our control. People are extremely complicated, and because of this federal policies to address perceived inequity in a given group of people need to be carefully crafted in order to be successful.

The civil rights movement was ultimately successful because there was a very specific set of goals that was centered around extending the principles of the Constitution to all individuals — regardless of race. Fifty years later, the case for race-based inequity is more complicated and therefore requires the careful identification of remaining problems so that they can be addressed through the appropriate policies. The civil rights movement was also largely successful because it was inclusive and had a more positive message: focus on making America more perfect, instead of the insistence that America is "inherently" flawed.

The Harper's letter eloquently demonstrates the dangers of groupthink, which chastises anyone from deviating from the narrative. Limiting open discussion on a complicated topic has a high potential for also limiting true progress — particularly for a very divided country. Moreover, it's essential to ensure people are able to have free dialogue so that compromise can lead to improved policies aimed at addressing complicated problems.

Unfortunately, Black Lives Matter seems to establish a single narrative that results in chastising those who disagree with certain policy goals — even if they support the movement's overall principles. This is why we see many examples of the arguments among the left regarding the defunding of police departments. Any attempt to discuss alternatives to defunding the police is considered "against the movement." There's simply no room for alternative ideas.

Similarly, the Black Lives Matter movement has been supportive of removing important historic American monuments — even those that represent the founding principles of the country. It's a sensitive and controversial topic, and there's general support and good arguments to remove some Confederate statues. However, it's a slippery slope and we should recognize that these monuments were erected to identify the people (and events) worth remembering, while also recognizing that many of those individuals were far from perfect. However, when one observes any historic figure, it's important to separate the virtues from their flaws. We do this with artists and musicians, and we certainly don't destroy art or music when we learn of the vices of the creators. It is, after all, impossible to destroy the individual flaws of a statue without also destroying the statue's original attempts to recognize people devoted to American greatness.

It's important to understand America's story — including the moral challenges of the past — so that future generations can avoid repeating these mistakes. Ultimately, inclusive movements aimed at expanding America's principles to build a more equitable and perfect nation will be far more successful than movements centered around negativity, division and destruction. ♦

George Nethercutt served in Congress from 1995-2005, representing the 5th District of Washington state.

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About The Author

George Nethercutt

From 1995-2005, George Nethercutt was the Republican Congressman from Spokane. He contributes to the commentary section of the Inlander.