Editorial: Nation cannot be unified if source of protesters' grievances is ignored

  • Volunteers paint murals on boarded-up businesses in Kenosha on Sunday at an "Uptown Revival" meant to gather donations for residents and help businesses hurt by protests.

    Volunteers paint murals on boarded-up businesses in Kenosha on Sunday at an "Uptown Revival" meant to gather donations for residents and help businesses hurt by protests. Associated Press Photo

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted9/1/2020 1:00 AM

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News on Monday that President Donald Trump "looks forward to speaking directly to (the people of Wisconsin) and unifying the state" through a visit to Kenosha today. It is our sincerest wish that he will succeed.

But we are more than a little uneasy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Our greatest fear is not that President Trump may fail. Unifying the deep divisions rivening Kenosha today is no small task for anyone. But for this president, who has made no effort whatever to heal the racial rift in our country generally or Kenosha specifically, there is a very real possibility he may actually make things worse.

So, Mr. President, we plead with you, if you come to our region today, to rise above the temptations that have governed your rhetoric since the death of George Floyd and find a place in your heart to acknowledge the experiences of Black Americans that lie beneath the unrest roiling the country. If you fail in that regard, you cannot succeed in unifying Wisconsin or any other part of the nation.

We understand the urge to support the men and women on police lines struggling to protect and calm Kenosha under the harshest of conditions. We respect them, too, and are more grateful than they or the hundreds of thousands of their brothers and sisters in our own suburbs and in cities across the country can know.

But another element of our society also is hurting today, also deserves in equal measure our respect and our support. Black Americans are crying out for recognition from a society that too often has given them every indication that their lives don't matter. A message in Kenosha today that suggests unqualified support for law enforcement and offers little or no acknowledgment of the deep-seated fears and resentments that some members of law enforcement -- and, yes, some political leaders -- have fomented in communities of color will not set the city or the nation on the path to unity. It will have the opposite effect.

Since before his election, President Trump has frequently praised his skills as a unifier. He promised unity in his inaugural address. He has returned to the theme in his State of the Union speeches. But his actions invariably belie his words. His tweets since the death of George Floyd have almost universally been framed to incite rage among his supporters and invite it among the Americans protesting for their grievances to get some attention.

This cannot be the pattern in Kenosha today, where unbridled passions already have produced too much needless tragedy. A nation needs a president who can share the burdens of communities hit hard by disasters or strife and provide assurances that the country will share them, too. It is surely fitting for a president to want to demonstrate that kind of compassion and strength. We have grave doubts whether this one will. If come to Kenosha he must, we appeal for President Trump to summon the leadership that will dispel them.

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