We were probably as confused as anyone else last week when stories began to surface about a controversial video involving York City police and Maple Donuts.
What was the purpose of the video? Why did it become such a big deal? And why were people so bent out of shape about the conservative political views often reflected in advertisements for Maple Donuts? They are, after all, no secret.
Over time, the pieces started to come together.
The video was part of a challenge among local police and firefighters around the U.S. to produce the best lip-sync video. It became a big deal in York when the city’s mayor, Michael Helfrich, decided York’s video should not be played, as originally scheduled, at a York Revolution game.
Initial reports seemed to focus on the role played by Maple Donuts, one of whose trucks is being chased by police officers in the video. According to those reports, Helfrich was displeased with the company’s “divisive messaging.”
It is interesting to hear a politician use the phrase, as nearly all partisan politics today involves some measure of “divisive messaging.”
Nonetheless, it became clearer that the real problem was between minority, mostly African American, residents of York, and the police force. At a follow-up meeting, NAACP officials noted a gulf between police and community and pointed out that the video could have been used to bridge the divide.
It is a point well taken and indeed an opportunity missed, one that brings us back to Maple Donuts.
Instead of canceling the video – which probably led more viewers to it – Helfrich could have taken a different tack, one that could have helped build bridges.
As a Democrat, he could have expressed his disagreement with the politics espoused by Maple Donuts – no one would have been shocked at that. And he could have thanked the company for its support of the police department.
Then he could have taken another step: inviting company representatives to take part in the community conversation that has followed recent acts of racism in York County, acts that have put the region in a negative light on the national stage.
The conversations – and an inclusive approach to them – could go a long way to burnishing the county’s reputation as a place where divisions are being healed instead of widened.