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Sidney Poitier Left Unifying Messages for Our Divided Times

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

In that light, University of Chicago professor Richard Pape, founder of the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, has been analyzing court documents and background files on 725 Jan. 6 arrestees and found a significant surprise:

More than income, education, hometowns or most other commonly cited drivers of characteristics, he said, the counties that sent the most insurrectionists tended to also be counties that have been losing the most white population.

“That dovetails with this right-wing conspiracy theory that used to be part of the fringe called the ‘great replacement,’” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” That’s a popular theory among recently rising far-right groups in Europe and in the far-right reaches of conservative media here.

It suspects a conspiracy by elites to replace America’s white population with immigrants and other people of color. There’s no plausible evidence of that but, as with Q-Anon, vaccine hesitancy and Barack Obama’s birth certificate, some people are determined to avoid letting facts get in the way of their suspicions.

Against that backdrop, the death of Poitier strikes me as tragically symbolic. He was a walking example of American diversity and ambitions. Black and an immigrant, born unexpectedly in Miami to Bahamian parents during a business trip, he had dual citizenship. He went on to join the U.S. Army at age 15 during the Vietnam era after reportedly lying about his age.

A generous supporter of the civil rights movement, his honors included being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 by President Barack Obama, this country’s highest civilian honor.

 

And through it all, he kept his dignity and his cool. “I’ve learned that I must find positive outlets for anger or it will destroy me,” he wrote in his 2000 memoir, “The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography.”

That’s some more good advice for our troubled times. Insurrectionists, take note.

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(E-mail Clarence Page at cpage@chicagotribune.com.)

©2022 Clarence Page. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

(c) 2022 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
 

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