Next month, the movie “Suffragette” will make its debut in U.S. theaters. “Suffragette” is about the tactics women in England deployed in earning the right to vote. In an online summary, the suffragettes are described as “working women who had seen peaceful protest achieve nothing.”
“Suffragette” reminds us that power concedes nothing without struggle. Major social advancement usually results from disorder or disruption. Black Lives Matter is protesting at the Minnesota State Fair because they understand that reality — so did the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1849, Henry David Thoreau argued in “Civil Disobedience” that respect for the law is subservient to what is right. Applied to modern times, one might say the quest for justice trumps the quest for corn dogs.
Instead of criticizing Black Lives Matter for protesting at the State Fair, those who don’t appreciate their strategy should direct their critical gaze toward the rest of society. We should wonder why we pay attention to injustice only when we have no other choice, and we should consider who really has the greater share of blame — protesters out demanding justice or all of the folks at home who refuse to listen otherwise.
Michael Kleber-Diggs, St. Paul
• • •
As one who grew up at the height of the civil-rights era in the 1960s, I was extremely disappointed by Barbara Reynolds’ nostalgic trip down memory lane (“Why our ’60s crowd is wary of Black Lives Matter,” Aug. 29). One of the bigger issues I have with it is the omission of the impact that Malcom X, the Black Panthers, and urban unrest and insurrections had in moving the policies of the day. According to Reynolds, all progress made in the ’60s was because of the well dressed, polite and prayerful civil-rights marchers.
The fact is that 60 years after Emmett Till, black people can still be killed by whites with impunity, whether they are wearing a badge or not. Black people face multiple indignities as we navigate each day. There is a direct effort to take away our voting rights. No amount of pointing to young people’s language, low-slung pants or violence within the community is going to distract us from addressing that in a direct manner.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has been reduced by many to being a dreamer instead of the advocate and instrument of change that he was. I like to think that he would have stood beside the Black Lives Matter activists. They are nonviolent, after all.
No change happens without disruptions of the current social order. Power concedes nothing without a struggle — it never has and never will.
So this baby boomer is not wary of Black Lives Matter but is grateful for the new energy and activism.
Theresa Davis, St. Paul
• • •
While I am sympathetic to Reynolds’ viewpoint, she seems to forget that many of the civil-rights movement’s methods were actively upsetting the power structures of the day. My father was active in the movement, and change was often brought about in ways that weren’t always considered “nice.”
Here are some lyrics from the 1960s protest song “It Isn’t Nice.”
Fifty years later, the words — and the methods they espouse — still ring true:
It isn’t nice to block the doorway,
It isn’t nice to go to jail.
There are nicer ways to do it,
But the nice ways always fail.
It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice.
You told us once, you told us twice,
But if that’s freedom’s price,
We don’t mind, no, no, no
We don’t mind!
Christopher Gibbons, Plymouth
• • •
An Aug. 29 letter writer wrote of the “inconveniences” experienced by people of color in our country in addressing the likely misinterpretation of the demonstration at the Minnesota State Fair. “Inconveniences”? I’ll say! The writer listed them well, so no need to repeat. On the radio, I heard a woman with the Minnesota Black Lives Matter organization, and she had an eye-opening question for supposedly progressive liberals who appear to support the cause. She asked this: “Are these progressive liberals willing to give up white privilege in order to support the cause?” It really is a key question. I’m one of those white progressive liberals. And her unspoken questions include the following: Are we willing to pay more taxes so that schools serving people of color are as high quality as mostly white suburban schools? Are we willing to pay more taxes so that the learning deficit that has been imposed on people of color in bad schools can be overcome? Ditto affordable housing. Ditto police, court and prison reform to reverse the obviously racist policies that have loaded our prisons with young black males. No need to list more. The list is obvious. Racist policies began with slavery and have only partly abated.
If any progressive liberal out there is not willing to open their wallet to solve these entrenched problems, they might as well vote Republican. And if they truly care about this, they need to get on the phone, e-mail, snail mail and any other means of communication with their congressional delegation and let them know that this matters. A lot. Having served a fellowship in the U.S. Senate in 2004, I can tell you that they do listen. If you care, do something.
John F. Hetterick, Plymouth
TAXES AND CITIZENSHIP
They didn’t know how the marginal rate works; do you?
I visited the Minnesota State Fair last week. In the Education Building at the Minnesota House of Representatives booth, I overheard a man state to a woman that he was upset with income taxes, because if he earned $1 over the line into a higher tax bracket, his income and taxes would go into the higher bracket. The woman responded that this fact about taxes was preventing people from trying to earn more money and it was why she liked presidential candidate Ben Carson’s plan of an across-the-board 10 percent tax.
I politely interrupted and pointed out that the high tax rate would be assessed only against the $1 and that the rest of his income would be taxed at the lower rate. He expressed surprise and asked if his accountant knew this. I replied that he should. The woman then said that she did not know this about our income taxes, either. She said that she would have to find out if I was correct. The woman is a Republican member of the Minnesota House. I find it disturbing that an elected representative, especially one from a party that makes opposition to taxes a center point of its policy, would not know how our tax system works. It caused me to wonder how many of our representatives really bother to learn about that which they oppose.
Alfred Zdrazil, St. Paul
Even without soccer stadium, this neighborhood needs work
My husband and I recently moved near the Farmers Market and downtown Minneapolis after living in St. Paul for more than 65 years. We love the bike trails, parks and cultural attractions, and we were very excited about the prospect of a soccer stadium being built very close to our home. We had hoped it would help end what appears to be neglect of this area by the city. The sidewalks are crumbling, there are cavernous areas of filth underneath the highway viaducts across from the Farmers Market, and many of the park facilities are decaying. Though the city seems to have handed the stadium to St. Paul, we hope it will still take a look at this area and invest in this ignored part of the city.
Cheri Rosenthal, Minneapolis