Other Side of the Bench by David Seidemann


In the summer of 1973, after I graduated from the local Hebrew day school in Columbus, Ohio, my mother thought it would be a good idea for me to get a head start on ninth-grade math. Her thinking was that when September rolled around and I entered ninth grade at Ner Yisroel in Baltimore, the material would be familiar to me. I still barely passed ninth-grade math, but without the summer course, it would have been a lot worse.

I entered the halls of Eastmore High School that summer, one of three white kids and the only Jew with a yarmulke. The remainder of the class was African American.

I felt a bit apprehensive, as I did not know I would be received by the rank and file. I felt out of place, like everyone else was looking at me, and that I did not fit in and perhaps would be graded differently. I was not afraid but definitely felt out of my element.

On the first day, I became friends with “Snake.” I doubt that was his real name, but to this day that’s all the info I have on him. I helped him with his school work and he made sure to make me feel at home among people who were different than me.

To deny that the average African American male feels that he is being treated differently than the average white male is to deny reality. One policeman’s knee to the back of George Floyd’s neck has brought this country, which was already reeling, to its knees.

Look what one microbe of a virus can do, look what one police officer can do, that cripples a country and affects an entire world that was already gasping for breath.

All of us fair-minded people should support equality in all spheres of society. No one should feel more fear than another walking the streets of America. Justice should be applied evenly, and force only when necessary to gain control of a clear and present danger.

No one individual, no matter how misguided his actions, should be deemed to be representative of an entire class, race, or field of employment. The demonstrations that followed the death of George Floyd were not only to be expected but were appropriate by those who legitimately felt the sting of racism and possessed the desire to see change. Any outside agitators should be shunned, as their actions create the opposite effect of positive change. They serve to foster more stereotyping and resentment.

So there is no doubt that change is coming, should be coming, and is long overdue. But the critical issue will be whether those in leadership positions — not the average citizen — will knee-jerk to the extreme left, which will undermine any real progress on racial inequality and tear asunder the foundation of a productive society.

And again, I speak only of the politicians and those who try to lead them astray. Joe America has every right to be indignant and to express that indignation reasonably within the bounds of law. One can’t seriously argue that the laws be applied equally and then call for the abrogation of law.

There is no question that law enforcement can use retooling, education, a new approach if you will, but we have already seen calls for the abolishment of law enforcement, which, as we know, will disproportionately affect, in the negative sense, communities that most need crime prevention.

Chicago, New York, Los Angeles — to name a few — have seen record spikes in violent crime. Which communities will suffer the most if police departments are abolished or defunded to the point that they cannot adequately protect victims of crime of all races?

Businesses that were entrenched in communities that needed those services the most, that were destroyed over the last two weeks, will not rebuild in those communities. Which communities will suffer most when the local pharmacy won’t reopen?

The answer is not to tear down. It is to build up. Tragedy and pain can lead to destruction or to a movement to build. Politicians knee-jerk to the left because in the moment, doing so taps into the legitimate rage of the oppressed. But when the immediate rage subsides, every community, white and black, wants to build, wants to grow, wants to be safe. By then, however, it’s too late, as the leftists have jabbed their markers in the ground.

The calls to abolish law will lead to the disappearance of order. And when that happens, no one is safe — not whites, not Hispanics, not African Americans. Everyone, deep down, wants to be safe.

Removing order is not the only matter on the left’s agenda. Removal of authority and removal of religion and an objective morality is part of their playbook as well.

We have seen this play out over the last few months in numerous arenas. All of this is a concerted effort to dismantle our Constitution as opposed to making sure that the Constitution works equally and optimally for all.

Disrespect for order and authority or the outright abolishment of order and authority might work well for some in the short run. In the long run, however, it has never resulted in sparing people from being victimized by society. Quite to the contrary, it creates pockets of out-of-control groups that kill each other to gain sole control.

This behavior is an anathema, particularly to our religion. We are a religion with respect for a higher authority, for civil behavior, and for the utmost concern of the rights of others.

America is at a breaking point. We either get it right now or set up shop somewhere else; I suggest Israel.

Rampant racism will make it impossible for our society to move forward in peace. Knee-jerk reactions to the extreme left will only create equal chaos.

David Seidemann is a partner with the law firm of Seidemann and Mermelstein and serves as a professor of business law at Touro College. He can be reached at 718-692-1013 or ds@lawofficesm.com.


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