Supervisor's Corner: We Should All Learn From Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
By Webster Town Supervisor Tom Flaherty
I’m into my ninth month as Webster Town Supervisor and have tried to use this “Supervisor’s Corner” forum to focus on Webster-centric topics. Back in early June, I deviated from that in the wake of the events in Minneapolis with George Floyd and the aftermath of protests nationwide, including here in our county. My article then was focused on “walking a mile in someone’s shoes” and understanding that as a 55-year-old white male, it is difficult for me to understand what it is like to be black, and what our black brothers and sisters in the human race encounter in everyday situations compared to what I encounter.
Last week, it hit closer to home for all of us with the news coverage of the events surrounding Daniel Prude’s death back in March 2020 here in Rochester. In such, I am going to deviate again from Webster-centric topics to discuss this global issue with the preface of “I do NOT have the answers, but I do know what won’t work in the effort to move society along.” The bothersome thing I have seen is that it feels like we are being forced to “choose sides.” Either you are FOR Black Lives Matter, or you are FOR the police. I for one am not comfortable in that since I have friends and family of color and it sickens me to think they experience a different America than I do... But I also have friends and family in law enforcement who are phenomenal human beings doing probably the most difficult job in society in 2020, and being spit on.
History is a great indicator of what works and what does not work in moving society along. I have no greater admiration for any historical leaders than that of Nelson Mandela in South Africa and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the United States. Simply said, these men had a grace that transcended the experiences they had encountered. Frankly, I do not think I have 1/100th of the courage and leadership mettle these men had. For all they had experienced, and with all the pressures on them to do otherwise, they chose and embodied “togetherness and peace” as the path to healing and making the future better for the human race. If you read one or two biographies in the next few months, I suggest you read about these two amazing human beings.
Choosing sides of Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter is NOT the answer. It is too simplistic to stereotype every police officer as racist and abusive, and frankly it is NOT accurate. Far from it, in my experiences. The vast majority of law enforcement are dedicated to “serve and protect,” regardless of whether the people they encounter in that mission are men, women, tall, short, black, white, etc. However, it is ignorant as a white person to not see tangible evidence that systemic racism has been out there as recently as 50 years ago ,with deed restrictions on Monroe County properties stating “no African Americans can own or live there.” I’m sure there is more recent evidence of this, too.
Bottom line... we can do better as the human race than to “pick sides” and think the side picked is 100% RIGHT and the other side is 100% WRONG. Dr. King and President Mandela knew that. Let’s follow their example if we really want to see positive change in the future.
As always, if you want to reach me, please call (585) 872-7068 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.