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Editor of the Reformer:

Why do I add my name and my call to saying “Black Lives Matter”? I am labeled white and was raised decades ago in a fairly white world, though there were cities nearby that did have many more people of color. I knew there was discrimination in schooling and in housing, but it didn’t impinge in an obvious way on my life. I noticed that we weren’t talking about these things in high school. We were all just awkwardly silent. I now see some of the silence as a shortcoming on the part of the teachers who didn’t know how to do this either. But more importantly I see how limited a life and education I received due to this separation and silence. My life has become richer as I have learned more and made connections with a wider array of people.

Also my heart has been and does hurt as I have learned about all the harm that has been done and is being done to Blacks, Indigenous People, and many other people of color. It is hard to look at. It is hard to look at how white supremacy is a hurtful system that has been inflicted for centuries by my people. My people did not necessarily decide to be so hurtful, but certainly we have been part of this system and I have reaped the advantages.

I know for our world to be whole and healthy, we need all of us, all our voices, and particularly for all of us to be safe. I don’t want another mother to give birth to a son and begin to have to worry forever about his safety because he will grow up to be a Black man who is often targeted and killed for no reason.

I, like many white people, have been blind to the small (but persistent in a way that makes them big) things that happen all the time to Black people (and other people of color). I am embarrassed to admit that rather than just believing the experiences of an African American middle-aged woman when she told me about being followed around in stores in Brattleboro, that I was rather doubtful. But then I got to see it myself when I was in a store with an exchange student with dark skin and curly hair who was staying with our family. The store owner even followed us to the next store we went into!

For a couple of weeks this summer I drove on a road in Putney that led by a house that had posted the names of several of the Black people who were relatively recently killed by police. This included Breonna Taylor, a woman shot by police in her home. She had done nothing except live in a house somewhere distantly near a house that might have had someone connected to drugs in it. A human life, Breonna Taylor. I cannot imagine the fear of everyone in that neighborhood who might think every night as they go to sleep, that maybe the police will mistakenly come into my house tonight.

I appreciated seeing those names and being reminded: to not forget them even though I did not know any of them personally, to say a prayer of some sort for each of them and their loved ones, and to recommit to finding ways to change our world, locally and nationally so that this inequity and senseless death is ended. A world in which everyone of our children is cherished and appreciated with their heritage, skin color, abilities, and type of family. A world in which every child sees themselves reflected among the adults in their school and the things that they learn.

There is nothing to fear in having Black lives mattering. It just makes it better for all of us. When I say “Black Lives Matter” it is because that gets us closer to a world in which all lives actually matter. We can’t say all until we include Black. And it is each and every Black life and all the others who are discriminated against in our white supremacist system.

Gail Haines

Putney, Oct. 9


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