Updated: Aug 31, 2020
Of course black lives matter. In our country's Pledge of Allegiance, where it says, "with liberty and justice for ALL", that means everyone. Martin Luther King once said, "We have all come on different ships, but we are in the same boat now." But it seems that the more time passes, the more complicated the world becomes.
Consider this: when we hear someone say all lives matter it’s like if someone were to say "My grandmother has passed away", and someone else responds, "All grandmothers pass away."…That’s not only insensitive but offensive. To have people of color suffer discrimination at the hand of ANYONE is an outrage.
The first time I remember seeing discrimination, I was only 7 years old, but that image was seared into my mind and impacted my whole life. I would like to share the impact it had on me.
I was in Mrs. Archibald’s class that year. She wore small wire rimmed glasses that sat on her nose. She was stern and serious all the time and never ever smiled. Why she taught second grade, I will never know. She kept candy in her lower desk drawer and would hand it out when she thought we were being good. Many of the kids in our class would sneak into her drawer to steal candy. It was kind of a thing. One day, my friend Victoria was accused of sneaking into her drawer and stealing candy. Victoria lived in what I now know to be a low-income area on the outskirts of the town where I went to school. We lived a long way from town so every day I would ride the school bus to and from school. Victoria was from a large family that lived in a three-room house that was set way back off the road. Each day she and her siblings would pour out of that little house and jump onto our bus. She would often come wearing the same clothes - wrinkled and dirty from the time on the playground the day before, with unbrushed teeth, and hair that was a mess at times. But I remember her as a loving, gentle friend – the kind that we all need regardless of our age.
One day after recess, Mrs. Archibald asked us who stole the candy and a classmate immediately pointed to Victoria “She did it, she did it.” I have no idea whether Victoria did it or not, but my teacher asked her to come to the front of the room. My sweet, shy, wonderful friend obeyed. Mrs. Archibald asked her if she took the candy. Victoria said no. She asked her again. And she shook her head no. Then, without warning, Mrs. Archibald grabbed a paddle out of nowhere, looped her arm around Victoria’s waist, bending her so that her dress and panties were facing the classroom and her head and upper body were facing away. She paddled her so hard. Tears flowed from my eyes, not because Victoria was in pain, because I’m sure she was, but because of the holes in the seams of her panties. Mrs. Archibald called her horrible racist names as she paddled her. With the exception of a couple of kids who bellowed laughter, we all were in shock. I was in second grade, hadn’t heard those names before, and knew it wasn’t right. I didn’t stand up for my friend because I was so, so scared of my teacher. Her mouth and her actions were so out of control.
Victoria didn’t come back to school after that day. And I have never, ever forgotten.
Since then, WHENEVER I have witnessed racial injustice, I have done whatever I could to stop it. We all should do whatever we can, acknowledge any areas of personal privilege, be an ally, admit we need to continue to have difficult conversations and learn, that we don’t know everything but that we remain open to learning, helping and supporting each other.
Do black lives matter? Yes they do.
YES. THEY. DO.
We own a small transportation business here in our community. A few years ago, we witnessed overt racism against one of our team members by a neighbor who didn’t like where our team member had parked. I was horrified. Our driver had parked their car on a public street next to our Operations base. Our neighbor was angry because they parked the car on the public street next to his house. It was only parked there less than 2 hours (but the amount of time wasn’t the issue). He was furious, hurling racist names and f-bombs at the driving team as they returned from the job. Why? We’d had others park there with no problems…until this particular day. He and my husband had a heated discussion and a "dust up" about his behavior. Needless to say, that one incident lead to another huge confrontation that resulted in one of our fleet vehicles windows being shot out. They also left gun shot holes and damage along the side of the vehicle – making it visible to passengers. Needless to say, the repairs were expensive. It was recommended for us to file a restraining order against him for his behavior and damage. But we decided that a restraining order would just incite more anger and pour gasoline on an already hot situation. Instead, we met with him countless times to de-escalate any future issues.
Does he still have those racial leanings? Who knows? Would I defend this or any employee against that sort of racist behavior?
That said, regardless of party affiliation, everyone can agree that more and more we are seeing a significant decline in what we understand democracy to mean. And, it’s terrible. Our world seems to be changing for the worse and every day we hear about some egregious act of violence in one of our nation’s cities, against innocent citizens and business owners, frequently in the name of the Black Lives Matter movement. It is shocking that a positive awareness movement that began as a hashtag and call to action, whose intention from the very beginning was to bring understanding in a world that has trouble listening (and was working), has also fueled riots that promote deliberate violence, murder, crime, and destruction of small businesses. In the prophetic words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he said "A riot is the language of the unheard." And, that "Our lived begin to end the day we become silent." We must listen. And we must listen, now.
Instead, demands are being made in some states or communities to require businesses to purchase a minimum of 23% inventory from black vendors and if none are available, then they are asking for a recurring monthly donation of 1.5% of sales to a local black non-profit. They are demanding the hiring of 23% of black employees. But how does that help discourage racism? How are those small business owners supposed to do that if there are no applicants for the position or when the applicant is not qualified? How does that solve anything or address racism? It does not.
Right here in our city, current demographic data shows that we have almost double the Hispanic population as our African American population. We have shop local and supplier diversity programs to encourage purchasing from all minority and locally owned businesses. When it’s encouraged versus mandated, the participation is more inclusive of our entire population without stripping liberty of Americans.
Years ago, Kansas instituted successful minority owned programs throughout the state. These include three certifications; Disadvantaged Business Enterprise; Minority Business Enterprise; and Women Business Enterprise. Just one of the numerous advantages of having this certification is that minority or disadvantaged business owners are first in line when being considered for government contracts. Likewise, they are eligible for first bidding and contracting benefit programs involved with federal procurement. As required by the Federal Transit Administration, when I was CEO of Metro, we always went to our DBE, MBE, and WBE, first. If they were not able to handle the work, we sought other vendors. This has been a requirement for as long as I worked in public transportation.
In South Carolina there were 12 African Americans at Mother Emanuel Church that died. After that horrific tragedy, they did not turn against one another. Instead, they all came together - black and white, liberal and conservative and made some really tough choices that ended up healing that community. Why can't we do this as a nation, as a state and as a community? We can and must do better than what we are doing.
Mandates, requirements and financial penalties on an already suffering business community do nothing to solve racism. Vandalizing, looting or even burning a business to the ground in the name of black lives that have been lost at the hands of a negligent law enforcement officers that are denounced by their own colleagues does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to solve racism.
These days when graffiti, violent riots, looting, burglaries, extreme acts and murder are becoming the norm, people are so overcome with emotion over this issue that they find it difficult to communicate about the right to be protected. For my family, as well as families here in our district and across Kansas, we don’t want to live in a state where we are denied our freedoms based on the opinions of a few. I firmly believe that if we deny or even limit these freedoms, then we are no better than extremists making demands against our city/county leadership, our businesses as well as our officers. And as far as our officers go, it only takes ONE bad cop to completely destroy a community full of goodwill the good officers have worked so hard to build. ONLY ONE.
Every single black life matters - the black cops who have been shot in the line of duty, the small business owners who have stood by and watched their life savings go up in smoke, the black kids who have been gunned down on the playground. All of our lives are being stolen by the violence on our streets (nationwide) . This violence is headed our way with approaching mandates and threats of violence here. I dream of a state that can rise together in peace and respect instead of falling apart with civil unrest and divisiveness.
In closing, let me just share what Dr. King so eloquently said, "The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary, but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility."
I've heard from so many concerned constituents, of all skin colors, whose hearts are full, and who don't feel they have an avenue to speak. Or they are afraid of losing business if they voice their opinion. Certainly, I have so many more thoughts. These are just a few.
What are yours?