The National Security Institute (NSI) at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School recently released a statement from NSI’s Founder and Executive Director Jamil N. Jaffer regarding racism, recent protests, and our ongoing duty to build a better America. The statement reads:
“Over the past week, we have seen a frank expression of legitimate anger, pain, frustration, and suffering across our nation. These events make clear that for far too long we, as a nation, have ignored the very real inequality at the heart of American society. While we have set ourselves apart in the community of nations in part on the promise of equal opportunity for all, the fact is that we have failed to meet this promise here at home. Our founders wrote of a self-evident truth that all men are created equal. Yet they failed to live up to this ideal, as have we. It is no longer okay to simply sit by and accept this failure. If we are to truly lead the global community of nations and serve as an example to others, as our organization believes we should, then we must take action now.
First, we must acknowledge that the anger and frustration we have seen in recent days comes from our own founding history of systematically subjugating an entire segment of our population, allowing them to be held as property and counted as less than a whole person. The formal legal vestiges of this stain on our nation’s history lasted for many decades, stretching into the late 1960s. And there can be little doubt that other major aspects of that history remain with us into the present moment. We owe it to ourselves as a nation—and a society that has long stood as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to the world—to acknowledge our failure to live up to our own ideals and to recommit ourselves to doing better.
We likewise cannot hide from the very troubling events that have taken place in the years, months, weeks, and days leading up to this moment. This includes—but is certainly not limited to—the killing of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement. We must acknowledge the long history of violence and oppression that has brought us here, and we must commit ourselves, individually and as a nation, to absolutely and unequivocally rejecting all forms of racial discrimination and hatred. They are—and always have been—anathema to the very moral fiber of our nation.
While some have come to believe that this land is only theirs, the reality of our nation—and what makes us so unique—is that we accept people from around the world, bond them together around a common vision and shared values, and call them Americans. It is this special characteristic that truly sets us apart and places upon us a moral obligation to lead the world.
As we seek to address our own internal challenges and reclaim the mantle of global leadership, we must also acknowledge that many of our nation’s own leaders have failed us in this moment of great need. Rather than seeking to unite us, too many leaders—at the highest levels—have sought to divide us. Elections have consequences and we would be wise to remember that as we look towards the future.
We must also hold strong to the principle that the right to express oneself freely and petition the government for redress of grievances, including the ability to peacefully assemble, are key hallmarks of our constitutional order, as is the ability of a free press to gather and accurately report on information to educate and inform our citizenry. We must preserve and defend these rights if we are to truly live by our own ideals.
We also must forthrightly acknowledge that there are forces at work, both internal and external, that seek to divide us as a nation and as a people. Our foreign adversaries, including Russia and China, are taking advantage of the ongoing situation by overtly and covertly creating chaos and division within our society.
Likewise, there are powerful internal forces taking advantage of the situation to create mayhem and to cause turmoil in this country. These groups do so in order to advance their own illegitimate agendas, often born of racial animus or the desire to create a society inconsistent with our core shared American values.
As we reject racial discrimination and hatred, we must likewise reject these efforts to destroy our nation’s social fabric, whether foreign or domestic in origin. We must reject the illegitimate views that undergird these efforts and refuse to give quarter to those who support them. We must recognize that we stand stronger together, as one nation and one people, bonded by our common humanity and shared values.
In opposing these subversive efforts, we must also remember that the best route to defeating malign views is not by shutting off the speech of others, but by highlighting their errors through more convincing speech of our own.
It also means rejecting and opposing those who would hijack peaceful protests to advance their own agendas by destroying businesses and churches, engaging in physical violence, or stealing goods to enrich themselves.
While our nation may have very real flaws—borne of its own history—that we must contend with, we must also remember that have historically been the one place, the one society, the one body politic that all other nations—and all peoples around the globe—look to when they seek to establish and preserve the core values of freedom, equality, and opportunity.
As such, we must be a better nation than we have been in recent times. And while there is much to criticize about the way many of our nation’s leaders have comported themselves, this fact cannot allow any of us to shed our own individual responsibility for building a better, more just America at home and a stronger America abroad.
To that end, we must work to bring people together, not divide them, and we must become leaders of positive change, not permitting destruction and violence to spread in our communities. We must also commit ourselves to returning to global leadership and not shy away from this singular moral obligation.
As an organization dedicated to educating future leaders and addressing hard national security problems, the National Security Institute at the Scalia Law School, will do our part. We will work with other organizations committed to addressing root causes, some of which unquestionably extend beyond our charter. We will forthrightly call out and combat the efforts of foreign nation-states and other adversaries to manipulate our national dialogue and undermine the shared ethos that is our core strength. We will also continue to call for strong and sustained American leadership around the globe, a military and intelligence community resourced to support it, and policies that confront our adversaries and strengthen our allies. And we will do a better job of identifying, educating, and empowering a diverse and forward-leaning group of future national security leaders and giving them role models to follow.
Most importantly, we shall not squander the sacrifices of the men and women who have died to preserve our freedom and advance the cause of justice.
We must act now.”
Correction 6/16/2020: The original statement suggested that the United States was made up of only immigrants which erased the Native Americans who inhabited the North American continent prior to European colonization and who have also been systemically oppressed. We apologize for the error.