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Amid protests, now is the time for unity

| June 7, 2020 1:00 AM

Over the past week the Flathead Valley has joined a global groundswell of calls for accountability in the way law enforcement officers police their communities and for meaningful change in the criminal justice system. Protests have been held in Whitefish for several days, and in Kalispell on Saturday.

These pleas for change are the heart of the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests that most recently were reinvigorated by the death of George Floyd, a black man from Minneapolis who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for more than 8 minutes.

It’s important for Americans to be able to exercise their constitutional rights by voicing their opinions responsibly and peacefully. Unfortunately, rioting, looting and violence have marred demonstrations in many cities, and it’s frustrating because the message — the pleas for change — are then drowned out. This should be a time for unity, a time to come together and truly listen to those voices calling out for change. Even in places such as the Flathead, where there is a predominantly white population, the collective voices for improved policing and a better justice system cannot be ignored.

And there are signs the message is getting through to those who can effect change. According to a recent Associated Press article, many demonstrations now have a “quieter mood” that’s due to several factors: “the new and upgraded criminal charges against the police officers involved in Floyd’s arrest; a more conciliatory approach by police who have marched with them or taken a knee to recognize their message; and the realization that the burst of rage after Floyd’s death is not sustainable.”

Another tangible sign that protesters’ pleas are being heard has been the removal of more symbols of slavery and Confederate symbols, the Associated Press noted.

Black Lives Matter is a human rights movement that ultimately aims to shine a light on the racial inequality that has plagued our American society since its very beginning. Whether insidious or overt, racism in any form is ugly, and eliminating it should be a goal we all embrace.

While protesting is one way to bring attention to racial inequality, we can contribute in other ways, too, such as donating to organizations striving for racial equality and human rights, or doing our own reading and research about movements such as Black Lives Matter. Get in touch with your local lawmakers and law enforcement leaders. Talk about racism with your families and your children.

Don’t sweep the topic under the rug.

Martin Lutheran King Jr.’s message was exactly right when he said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”