Last year my local newspaper published an op-ed criticizing Black Lives Matter. Normally I’m fine with critique as long as it is fair and helpful. This was not.
Writing a response to the columnist, to the publisher and the editor seemed like a proper way to express my opinion and present an alternative viewpoint. I worked hard to be respectful even though I felt her words were reckless and inflammatory.
I’m remembering this back and forth exchange because of how over-the-top inflammatory our public conversation has become.
I am thinking about it during this particular week because of the spiraling racial violence that has occurred across our nation three days in a row.
A young Black man killed by police in Baton Rouge on Tuesday.
A young Black man killed by police in Minnesota on Wednesday.
Five White police officers targeted and killed at a peaceful protest in Dallas on Thursday.
There is too much rabble-rousing rhetoric going on, too many rash responses, too much foolish finger pointing, too many careless accusations.
We all need to speak up but we need to do so responsibly. We all need to be writing our letters to our newspapers and our governors and our representatives. We need to be posting accurate information and balanced op-eds in our newsfeeds. We need to challenge our friends if they spout dangerous and divisive untruths. We need to do our part to tone down the rhetoric and foster authentic conversations around the issues that divide us.
Ironically the Dallas Police Department and the local Black community have been making significant strides in recent years in their joint effort to foster authentic conversations. See here the photo the police department tweeted as the march began. This budding relationship of mutual trust makes the Dallas tragedy all the more heartbreaking.
For the sake of Alton Sterling let us all finally address the thorny problem of damaged relationships between Black communities and local police departments.
For the sake of Philando Castile let us all find ways to honor his life with proactive, intentional acts of repentance and reconciliation.
For the sake of the dead and wounded police officers in Dallas, let us all help craft a safer, more trusting, less violent society.
For the sake of our children and grandchildren, let us all believe in a future – let us together create a future – where finally, one of these days – every life will truly matter.
Charlotte’s Letter to The Paris News concerning Black Lives Matter
I am disappointed in your recent op-ed in The Paris News that vilified Black Lives Matter. Here are my primary critiques:
1) Characterizing the Black Lives Matter movement as a hate group is irresponsible.
This current effort to disrupt the status quo of white privilege in America stands squarely in the tradition of the Civil Rights Movement. The methods are different, yes, because toxic racism remains entrenched within our society even after generations of hard work. In light of recent events of police violence, it was inevitable that activists would find their passion and rise to the occasion. They will not – and they should not – stay in the place society has assigned them. It is high time for real equality in this nation.
2) Characterizing the police as white knights is irresponsible.
Of course many of our cops, most of our police are wonderful human beings and excellent public servants. I am proud to call Chief Hundley and Sheriff Cass personal friends and I admire their character and their professionalism. I also grieve the inexcusable murders of too many cops.
But denying that America has a very real problem with some very bad cops contributes to the myth rather than exposing the reality. Some cops break the law. Some cops harm the people they are supposed to be protecting. Some cops lie and cover up their own actions and the illegal acts of others. Some cops are racist. Some cops are inept. Some cops need to find a job where they are not given a gun and a badge. Good cops – and all the rest of us – will only benefit from the rooting out of the bad, incompetent cops among us.
3) Characterizing Fox News as a credible news source is irresponsible.
I was astonished to see this in your op-ed piece. If you will represent yourself as a fair and thorough journalist, then interview some of our local African American citizens. Interview members of the local NAACP. Interview our police chief and our sheriff. Find out if these people see Black Lives Matter as a hate group. Everyone will have a different opinion, I daresay, but I doubt you would get the same kind of recklessness Fox News spews. You must do better for your readers.
I look forward to hearing back from you.
Charlotte Vaughan Coyle
If you care as much about our shared future as I do, consider hosting a conversation in your home or in your community. Invite your friends who have different opinions to come hear each other out. Step boldly across political lines and color lines and religious lines in order to break down barriers and build bridges.
Find here a helpful model provided by Coffee Party USA: Coffee Party Talks.
Photo: Charlotte and her friend Sheriff Scott Cass at a western themed community fund raiser event in Paris TX 2013.
Important NPR story: Dallas has been called a Leader in Police Training Transparency
Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She frequently shares her thoughts with Coffee Party USA as a regular volunteer.