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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

We believe you. We stand with you. We want to prove it.

This is the message that the McDonough County Democratic Party wishes to share with people of color in Macomb and McDonough County, in alignment with the national Democratic Party’s established commitment to stand up for racial justice and civil rights.

This letter is partially in response to the events of this spring’s “Fire Jack” campaign organized by a group of business owners targeting WIU President Thomas. But we also recognize that events like this are only flare ups in a long-simmering reality that lets people of color know they are simply not welcome in many spaces here.

Some individuals do not understand why this campaign was racist and why people of color are still hurting from that event. Too often, the reaction by well meaning white people to events that harm the black community is to “not raise a fuss” and “wait for it to blow over”.

Silence is itself an injustice. Dr. King notes the preference of the “white moderate” for “a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

Black people in the community have already gone to great lengths to explain why the actions taken by the campaign were racist, through many op-eds, blog posts and public speeches. To briefly summarize, the public shaming of a black man, in the town square, using only his first name stripped of all recognition of office and merit, by powerful, prominent white citizens, reminded may people of darker days, wen black men were called “boy” to belittle them. Addressing Dr. Thomas as ‘Jack’ shows disrespect for him and the office, no matter how one feels about his performance as President.

This time, because of the voices of individuals in the black community and allied organizations, this issue was not quietly hidden away.

Mayor Inman and WIU Interim President Abraham have publicly acknowledged that racism exists in our community and have pledged to address this issue. So far, an attempt at a remedy has come in the form of the “non-Violent Communication” workshops led by Dr. J. Q. Adams. They are a necessary start to the conversation, ad w look forward to achieving material gains in racial equality in Macomb and the County.

In seeking justice we will not allow continued offences to blow over. Last month’s “Town and Gown” event, held in the venue where the campaign slogan was prominently displayed on their marquee, caused shock and disappointment among members of our committee involved in the recent forums on racial justice.

In continued solidarity, we stand behind the National Democratic Party Platform and the efforts of local organizations that are working to create a community committed to equality and justice for all of its residents.

The McDonough County Democratic Central Committee Contact: Lee Trotter, President, McDonough County Democratic Party

Dear Editor,

I do not believe America has “fractured” or “divided.” I refuse to bite into this thesis. Instead, we are who we have always been - a diverse society in many contexts.

What has changed is that people now have the ability to “shout” and “scream” their thoughts at each other online, without having to deal with the repercussions of being irreverent and mean-spirited, face-to-face. That is what has changed.

Americans have become less civil. Our differences of opinions and beliefs are not new. There have always been Democrats, Republicans, Tea Party Libertarians and Independents and people who choose not to vote.

What has actually changed are the ways we in which we relate to each other, and the dramatic increase in the number of for-profit media outlets, designed to create and support opinions.

When I was a child, there was no cable TV. We had ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, UPI, and AP News. Local news was local news, supplemented with feeds from these largely apolitical national sources.

Today, most Americans have access to 10-20 channels emphasizing “false pontificates.” We also have unlimited internet access which allows us to “prove we are right,” by finding people who agree with us.

In the absence of critical thinking skills, we have become empowered to believe we are always “absolutely” right, and those with whom we disagree, “evil.”

The fact that we have become uncivil is actually a good thing. If it were true that new divisions were occurring, I might as an old man be compelled to believe in the collapse of America. I might as a religious person fear the “End of Time.” But that is not the case.

The good news is that if we have learned to be uncivil and disrespectful toward one another, then we can learn to be civil and show respect to one another. This is true at the local level, just as much as at the national level.

We can relearn to love one another, and learn to love those with whom we may disagree. We can recreate the idea of community. This is what is needed now more than ever. Respect for those who differ. Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to this as Radical Love.

Robert J. Hironimus-Wendt Western Illinois University Sciota, IL

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