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Shelly Aldean: Needed: Critical lovers of America

By Shelly Aldean

As the national “conversation” about race relations continues, our ability to identify a reasonable way forward will be impeded if we continue to indulge in divisive generalizations and allow our positions to become more polarized and hardened. The often-quoted dream of Martin Luther King that people not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character is still attainable but only if we can coax it out of the dimly lit realm of wishful thinking into the daylight of reality.

Every race and ethnicity have been labeled with stereotypical traits, many of which are denigrating. It is a disagreeable aspect of human nature to fear what we don’t understand and to diminish those around us in order to elevate our own feelings of self-worth.

For example, according to this “book of disparagement,” all people of Jewish descent are penurious, all Italians are part of organized crime, all Irish (part of my lineage) are drunkards, all Englishmen (also part of my lineage) are cold and aloof and all Middle Easterners (again, a part of my lineage) are terrorists.

More specific to Caucasians in America, according to an online pamphlet associated with the National Museum of African American History, most White people in the United States want to “win at all costs,” are prone to “aggressiveness and extroversion,” believe that “wealth equals worth,” believe that a “wife is (a) homemaker and subordinate to (her) husband,” and support the “majority rules (when whites have power).”

Even if true in certain instances, this is the sort of stereotyping that needs to be avoided if we are ever to have a constructive dialogue about how to advance past our differences.

Nearly every ethnic group regardless of their skin color has been tested by the heat of a crucible. Hebrews (Jews) were enslaved by the Egyptians and brutalized by the Nazis, Christians were persecuted by the Romans, even members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) experienced intense bigotry as they were forced to flee Missouri in the 1800s under the authority of a gubernatorial Executive Order declaring that they “must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state.”

As we wrestle with our past transgressions as a nation, with the persistent problem of poverty and violence in our inner cities, and with the need to implement surgically applied police reforms, we should, at the same time, acknowledge our capacity as a free nation to address our failings. Few countries are as self-reflective as the United States or possess such an innate desire and ability to right legitimate wrongs through legal and social reforms. It is for this reason that I find the self-righteous posturing by certain major U.S. corporations to be unforgivably hypocritical. While they express concern about police brutality and make sizable contributions to related causes, they continue to capitalize financially on the exploitation of subjugated workers in other parts of the word and we, unfortunately, as consumers of their products, are complicit in these activities.

According to the LA Times, a report, recently released by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) uses government documents, Chinese News Media, and independent reporting to corroborate the transfer of at least 80,000 Muslim-minority Uighurs from “reeducation” camps in China’s Xinjiang province to factories across China where they are forced to make products for 83 global brands including Nike, Apple, Dell, Adidas, BMW, The Gap, Huawei, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen. According to the article, an “online ad boasts of freshly trained ethnic minority teenagers as if they were commodities for sale” promising that “factories could book workers online at a minimum of 100 people …. and have them delivered to their doorstep within 15 days.”

Although, according to the article, these labor transfers have been occurring for more than a decade, they substantially accelerated when a Communist Party hard-liner assumed the mantel of party secretary in Xinjiang in 2016. Many of the detainees who have escaped from these reeducation camps, which nearly tripled in size between April 2017 and August of 2018, report prison-like conditions where a detainee’s every movement is monitored, where torture and sleep deprivation are common interrogation techniques and where young women are subject to sexual abuse. Even more egregious than this is the treatment of the Falun Gong prisoners of conscience in China whose organs are being harvested to meet the demands of a burgeoning transplant market.

In 2006, former Secretary of State David Kilgour and human rights attorney David Matas co-authored a report entitled “Bloody Harvest: The Killing of Falun Gong for their Organs”. Helping to substantiate their findings were recorded conversations with medical professionals from actual organ transplant clinics in China who admitted to sourcing organs from followers of Falun Gong, a benign spiritual practice whose adherents, ironically, advocate for truthfulness, compassion and tolerance.

In conclusion, while the United States is not without its failings, there is a reason why people from around the world clamor for the privilege of calling it home. For those of us who are fortunate enough to live here, let us be more forgiving of a nation that has been a beacon of hope for millions of people around the globe. In the words of former Vice-President Hubert Humphrey “What we need are critical lovers of America – patriots who express their faith in their country by working to improve it” not conspiring to destroy it.