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A Forgotten 2016 Cookout Reminds Us How True Progress Is Made

Isa Ryan /

When I was a little girl, I remember loving the idea that the United States was once considered a melting pot as new immigrants came from overseas to build a new life.


I grew up in San Francisco, where I thought it was maybe more like a blender with lots of different cultures and backgrounds coming together to create something new.


What makes the U.S. unique is that we do not have the kind of social barriers that kept factions separated and alienated from one another.


These kinds of social barriers are being built once again, however, in the form of intersectional politics and far-left anarcho-communism.


This divisive rhetoric reconstructs barriers that have been eroded by the learned tolerance of generations of immigrants who came here with a common goal and have been forcefully torn down in the name of justice. This must be resisted.


To do this, we tend to first think of pushing back against false narratives, calling out media hypocrisy and denying the increasingly pervasive radical ideology disguised as centrism.


However, a 2016 cookout in the height of the Black Lives Matter riots of the last election season gives us a poignant reminder of what we really need: fellowship.


In June, the Trump campaign’s communication director tweeted a reminder of an event that went viral in 2016 after a Black Lives Matter group and the Wichita Police Department decided to have a cookout together instead of a protest.



At the time, USA Today reported:


Officers served hamburgers and hot dogs and played basketball with members of the community. Kids jumped in bounce-houses and blew bubbles. Officers and the community even danced together.


But, the tone wasn’t about food and fun. It was an opportunity to have difficult conversations aimed at change.


Jarvis Scott, a black man who sat at a table with a Hispanic man and a white man, next to Lt. Travis Rakestraw, told The Wichita Eagle it was the first time since 1992 he’d sat down with a police officer. The other two said it was their first time sitting with an officer.


This isn’t the great headline of the era that we’ll remember. These are regular people who did not go on to be political lightning rods or powerful social influencers.


They were decent, compassionate Americans who decided that maybe the real way to make progress and address the issues that mattered to them most was to simply come, break bread and dance together.


The nation is what it is today because of the millions of Americans who came before us learned to do just this. We don’t talk much about this legacy previous generations have left these days, as we are constantly hyper-focused on what separated our ancestors.


The majority of us, however, aren’t out there building barriers by way of burning down buildings. Instead, we’re navigating the world of living side-by-side with friends, family, loved ones and neighbors who have different views and personal histories than we do.


Most of us find a way to make it work, as our ancestors did. There will always be conflict. There will always be dangerous ideologies. There will always be issues we feel passionately about that threaten to pit us against our fellow citizens.


Our fellow citizens, too, will also always be there, and we can either protest one another … or have a cookout.