My Turn: Those signs are an invitation for us to learn more

  • Black Lives Matter flags fly and line the fence surrounding the Hennepin County Government Center, April 2, in Minneapolis.  AP

Published: 4/20/2021 6:31:12 AM

There is a reason that so many lawns and store fronts brandish Black Lives Matter signs, Ms. Maynard [letter, “Signs”].

   On April 12, we learned of another Black man, Daunte Wright, who had been shot and killed by police, again in Minnesota, for some supposed minor traffic violation. And last week, the trial arguments ended for the police officer who is accused of killing George Floyd by kneeling on his chest and neck for over 9 minutes, this for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill.

More and more people are starting to recognize the truth that, in America, Black lives have not mattered, have never mattered and still do not matter today. Take another look at those signs and read them carefully this time. They do not say only Black Lives Matter. They do not say Black Lives Matter more. They do not say other Lives Do Not Matter. But what they are saying, begging really, is for the rest of us to understand that Black Lives Matter, too and we need to stop dismissing them as though they are not important!

For example, before Daunte and George, we watched as police put Eric Garner in a chokehold in New York City and held him until he died for selling cigarettes on the street. Then Breonna Taylor died in her bed when police stormed her apartment in the night looking for non-existent drugs. And there was John Crawford who was killed by police as he checked out a toy gun inside a Walmart. And 12-year-old Tamir Rice, shot within seconds of the arrival of a police officer as he played with a toy gun. And how about Trayvon Martin, walking home to his father’s apartment with some candy and shot by George Zimmerman. And none of these killers was ever held accountable.

In fact, the only reason that former Officer Derek Chauvin is being tried in the death of George Floyd is that someone filmed the whole sordid thing and shared it with the world!

It is a sad fact that, according to the Washington Post Fatal Force, updated April 15, Black people in America make up about 13% of the total population but over 50% of those killed by police. In addition, Blacks comprise 40% of the U.S. prison population, and according to PolitiFact, June 29, 2018, large numbers of them jailed not because they have been found guilty of anything but because, once accused, they have been unable to pay bail. Languishing in prisons for weeks, months, even years while awaiting trial, these people lose their jobs, their homes, their families, not for anything they have done but because they couldn’t afford to pay off their jailers!

As a people, Black Americans suffer in countless other ways. Starting with the Emancipation Proclamation, laws were passed in America to guarantee that People of Color will be kept poor and powerless. Banks refused them loans or charged exorbitant interest rates. Real estate agents showed them only homes in poorer neighborhoods. Companies hired only for lower paying and less responsible jobs. Even the U.S. government refused returning Black soldiers access to the GI Bill.

Since schools are supported by property taxes in the U.S., poor people necessarily have schools that are deficient in almost everything. Old buildings, asbestos, faulty plumbing with lead pipes, inadequate textbooks, no libraries or school nurses, Black children struggle to learn and even to believe in themselves. With so many parents incarcerated, many unjustly, children struggle at home as well, living on a single parent’s minimum wage, inadequate food and housing and health care. They grow up fearing the police, learning from their parents’ experiences that Black people do not fare well in law enforcement’s hands.

The fact that any Person of Color ever succeeds at anything other than sports in this country is a testament to the courage, determination, intelligence and hard work of every one of them. And succeed they do! Doctors, nurses, lawyers, ministers and priests, teachers, accountants, bankers, designers, artists, architects, scientists, mathematicians, inventors, authors, lawmakers and a president … name it and you will find exceptional examples all around you. Still, even these accomplished people must deal with the prejudicial attitudes that whites impose on them.

A few years ago, we heard about an older Black man, a well-dressed minister, who pulled into a store parking lot when he felt himself going into a diabetic hypoglycemic attack. He needed a shot of glucose (sugar), fast. Instead, the store manager called the police who assumed he was overdosing on drugs and refused to hear the man’s pleas, dragging him out of his car, handcuffing him and holding him until he died. What are the chances that a white man would have experienced the same response?

Those signs, Ms. Maynard, are an invitation for us to learn more about why Black Americans are asking us to care and a desperate call to grant them the same respect and concern we demand for ourselves.

Louise Amyot is a 45-year resident of Greenfield.


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