The rage jumps off the page as I read the recent letter to the editor from a man wondering what’s happened to our country. I guess he’s at least aware of his rage since he states he is ‘totally livid about the radical people in this country trying to destroy America…” He states that Olympian Gwen Berry needs to go to another country and that Black Lives Matter hates our country. No wonder he’s so angry.

It seems impossible to speak to someone so consumed by rage. I too am white, hard-working (first job at age 14) although I am a woman so I have had less white privilege than the letter writer but still, I had the luxury of white privilege during my lifetime. It is time for all of us to have this conversation as difficult as it is.

Maybe one of the best ways to illustrate this is to talk about what happened in Tulsa, Okla., 100 years ago when an angry mob of white men murdered nearly 300 black people, burned and destroyed the Greenwood District, an affluent black community. Nearly 6000 black folks were interred, over 10000 were left homeless. Why is this important in the context of race and white privilege? To me it’s important because I never heard about this until recently. My husband and I were watching news when a piece came up about the Tulsa race riot. We both looked at each other, jaws dropped. Neither of us has been taught about this part of American history.

This happened 100 years ago, twat does this have to do with us in the present time? Most of us either did or probably will inherit something when our parents or grandparents pass on. Probably our parents did and hopefully our kids will too. This generational wealth and home ownership has been passed on down the line in many white families. Everything was taken from the people in Greenwood. There was no generational wealth left to leave their children and grandchildren. Working hard at an early age cannot make up for being far behind to begin with.

There are many more stories of similar things happening over the years and still happening in our country. If we talk about these things it doesn’t mean we don’t love our country. It means we are willing to look at our country, the good, bad and ugly and make sense of it, move forward toward a more perfect union. Surely we can all set aside our rage and try to do this, right?

Another example I can give is this: when I go shopping in a store in our town I am not followed around by security. I shop freely without worrying about being accused of stealing. This is not true for people of color. Another example in the same newspaper the angry letter appeared is this: an article pictured the eight new leaders of a local organization. All white, nearly all men. It’s time for change.

Lisa Whelan

Grand Rapids


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