In My Opinion

Fabiola Santiago: Too often hatred, racism rule the day

Some days, my morning news feed negates that I live in a multicultural, pluralistic, progressive country in the 21st century.

Today’s cacophony:

• In Washington D.C., a Senate committee took on the country’s top military leaders for failing to deal with the rampant sexual assaults on women in the service.

• In Georgia, a black man test-driving a dealership’s BMW was stopped by police, who despite confirming he was telling the truth, arrested him for not cooperating enough with their inquisition.

• And going viral on the web, a YouTube video of a cereal commercial features an adorable child who played the daughter of a white mom and a black dad — setting off so many hateful and racist comments that the makers had to disable the commentary section.

These different scenarios are connected. They speak to what lurks beneath our so-called post-racial, post-women’s-movement society, our delusions of being the greatest nation on earth.

While surveys point to changing attitudes about race and gender equality in the United States, the reality says that progress is all too fragile.

That dealing with the sexual abuse of women in the military — a crime that ought to be vigorously prosecuted, plain and simple — requires congressional hearings a la IRS is ridiculous. But that seems to be the only way to get to the bottom of outrageous abuses these days.

The hearing Tuesday showed that even while demonstrating concern, one senator’s choice anecdote illustrates why little progress has been made on this issue in male-dominant institutions like the military (and Congress).

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said that he was approached by a woman who asked if he would approve of her daughter joining the military. McCain said he told her he could not give his full support because of the severity of the rape problem.

To suggest that women shouldn’t be part of an institution because of the brutal and predatory behavior of some men, now that’s going back to the Middle Ages. It’s time to take rape cases outside of the ineffective military police and put them where they belong — in the nation’s courts.

Likewise in the Georgia case, the conduct of people entrusted with public safety is reproachable.

I’ll give officers the benefit of the doubt that they stopped Jon-Christopher Sowells because the BMW didn’t have license plates — the dealership’s bad. But once they were told that, the burden was on police to corroborate the story. The dealership was right there.

Their excuse for pressing Sowells so they could search the car, to demand he hand over documents in the back seat he had no knowledge of, and for treating a man without a record as if he were a criminal? The dealership wasn’t answering the phone.

Let’s hope a judge quickly drops the obstruction charges against Sowells and embarrasses the police department.

Ignorance and fear. Some people think and act by them.

Only that can explain why some would find offensive a charming little girl wanting her dad to eat Cheerios because it’s good for the heart.

Read more Fabiola Santiago stories from the Miami Herald

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