Confronting America's Racial Tensions | Opinion

What should parents and teachers tell their kids about the racial unrest that erupted after George Floyd's killing? On television, conversations between pundits and lawmakers are often politicized, serving little practical use to make things better. Too many people want to abolish the police and erase history, or portray America as systemically racist and evil. Many others seem to dismiss out of hand the anger and concerns of Black Americans, seeing racism as a past phenomenon that has no effect on people's lives today. Logic and empathy are in short supply, it seems. So, what are America's youths to think?

As I was considering these issues, I read a great article by Gerard Robinson, the vice president for education at the Advanced Studies in Culture Foundation in Charlottesville, Virginia. Previously, Robinson served as the commissioner of education for the state of Florida and as the secretary of education for the commonwealth of Virginia. In his article, Robinson offers a unique and powerful perspective on the riots and protests that are gripping our country. Perhaps his perspective can penetrate the current smog of partisanship and offer a unifying message.

Robinson graciously joined me on this week's episode of my podcast, "Newt's World." In our conversation, he compares the current wave of unrest to the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which he experienced firsthand as a fifth-grade teacher in the city. The acquittal of four white police officers in the beating of Rodney King, a Black man, triggered an explosion of anger that resulted in the deaths of dozens of people, thousands of additional injuries, and more than $1 billion in property damage.

Funeral for George Floyd in Houston
Funeral for George Floyd in Houston David J. Phillip-Pool/Getty Images

Since then, police departments have many more women and minorities on staff, and there's of course new technology to help out with policing. But clearly many Americans still see race as an issue, and all it takes is one moment to bring all of that emotion to the forefront of our national focus.

Robinson told me that parents must have honest conversations with their children about what they see on television. Especially today, when kids are exposed to so much information (some of which is likely false or misleading), parents have a responsibility to provide their kids with education and a moral compass. Two other ways for America to address racial tensions in constructive ways are for lawmakers to come together and stop politicizing the unrest, and for faith leaders to play a prominent role in fostering nonviolence and unity.

I hope you will listen to this week's episode to hear a unique and powerful perspective on race in America and the current unrest across our country. And I hope you will listen to my next episode, set to air Wednesday, on the Michael Flynn scandal. I will speak with Lee Smith about the Obama administration's nefarious efforts to target Flynn.

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The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.