Thank you, Dave Naeyaert for responding to my guest column about whether racism in our local community requires more thought and response (“Racism statements trouble this reader,” August 12 edition). Mr. Naeyaert states one can’t “read too much into displays of Confederate flags as a deliberate sign that the person supports the Confederacy.” The Confederacy, you may recall, fought for the right to maintain slavery. My question was and is, what does the flying of the Confederate flag mean in this time and place?
Does Mr. Naeyaert deny the existence of entrenched racism, or is it that he denies the need to address it in any meaningful way? I was describing the actions that I was taking personally and as a member of a community to educate myself, reading up on the history of racist ideas and unearthing my own less conscious assumptions and beliefs. One of the first ideas I came across that I hadn’t thought about previously was that racism produces concepts of race and not the other way around. I didn’t learn this in a communist re-education camp in Soviet Russia, North Vietnam or Venezuela, but in a little insightful book by Ta-Nehisi Coates called “Between the World and Me” where he describes some of his experiences growing up as a black kid into a black man and addressed to his son. Being able to take someone else’s perspective is an exercise in awareness.
Gov. Whitmer declaring racism a public health crisis is an acknowledgement of the effect that racism has on the health of the whole state. If we heal the deep wounds of racism then the whole country benefits. It does not demote one group for another group to gain in health, safety and wellbeing. We all gain.