To the editor:
Based on excellent reporting by The Mountaineer journalist, it appears that racism is alive and well in Haywood County – or at least Maggie Valley. The actions of the counter-protesters validated the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters’ contention that there are racial issues that perpetuate discrimination and unequal justice in the US. The vitriol and anger expressed by the counter protesters is irrational in any context other than racism.
Responses to “black lives matter,” such as “no they don’t” and “no one cares” validates the issue that the lives of black and other minorities don’t count as much as white lives for many whites in the US. Other shouts, such as “You’re in the wrong neighborhood, boy.” further reinforce the apparent racism. As for being in the wrong neighborhood, the only person who has a justification for saying, “Go back to where you came from.” Is a Cherokee!
Having years of experience with law enforcement leadership at the county and municipal levels, I doubt that we have a law enforcement issue of any magnitude here. That said, anyone who has not been in a coma for the past couple of decades should be able to list examples from California to New York and Minnesota to Georgia where African American males have been beaten or murdered by errant police or white vigilantes. This is the tip of the racism iceberg.
Racism can involve housing among a host of other discriminations. When I entered graduate school in Minnesota, we experienced racism in realtors who would not show a white couple houses in mixed neighborhoods where houses were cheaper. Differential work advancement and lack of minorities in workforces or management can be an indication of racism. The hostility and anger seen in Maggie Valley are certainly signs of racism in the community.
Both the strength and weakness of the BLM movement stem from its evolving from local activists without central leadership or discipline. The difference between John Lewis and BLM activists is the lack of non-violent discipline and failure to call out those who incited violence. There is some evidence that white supremacist elements infiltrated some demonstrations to incite violence as seen in Virginia demonstrations recently.
The other weakness of the BLM movement is the failure to develop realistic policies and articulate rational changes to initiate dialogue with community leaders and those who are critical of the movement.
Staging protests is relatively easy. Working on realistic changes is hard. What would be positive and beneficial for Haywood County would be to organize not more protests, but forums where people of differing viewpoints can discuss not just their opinions, but facts in a calm environment. Neurology has shown that when emotions run high the parts of the brain for rational thinking shut down and the more reptilian survival parts of the brain take over. Protests tend to stimulate emotions rather than rational thinking or positive solutions.
I urge the local activists in the BLM movement to speak with local elected officials and leaders in law enforcement to discuss national vs. local aspects of racism. Some of the experiences of local minority individuals cited in the articles suggest a starting point for local discussions. Contrasting local situations with those in other areas of the country might provide insights and strategies for broader resolution of tensions and misunderstandings among ethnic groups, as not all racism is white. African Americans, Latinos, and Asians are also capable of racism. Getting to know each other better would be a start toward not only better understanding, but also a more equitable society.
I strongly urge the BLM activists to pursue more dialogue and less confrontation. The former can lead to progress. The latter to more animosity without progress.