Archive for July, 2020

Visioning A Different Outcome

July 2, 2020

It breaks my heart to see that over a week later, my community remains raw with upset and divisiveness. Madison County Missouri is 98.3% white and they probably prefer it be that way. Quiet and non-contentious, perhaps echoing back to an earlier time in history. The world is changing and it is a significant moment in history.

We once had a black sheriff’s deputy. That didn’t last long. We have a black doctor but he doesn’t live here. One can’t help but ask why people of color don’t feel welcome in our community.

I remember my own youth. I was a high schooler from 1969 through 1972 and the Vietnam War was raging and that was our moment in history against a war that seemed wrong for our country to be involved in. On June 24, 2020 a group of young people came to raise awareness about what they see as their moment in time to make a difference. They are deliberately targeting predominantly white rural communities in which to make a stand. Some of the members of this group are residents of this community.

The rumors prior to the event were full of mis-perceptions and erroneous expectations – the protesters were being bused in from outside of the community, or they were coming to burn WalMart or spray graffiti all over the town’s buildings or perhaps break windows and loot the small businesses. They were terrorists or antifa or paid by George Soros to be there. With news of the planned protest, a Back the Blue counter-protest was planned in support of law enforcement but more accurately to trap the protesters in a ring of the community’s well-intentioned (some) citizens protecting the community from what they thought was going to happen. Some were blatantly racist – making monkey gestures, pantomiming a lynching, shouting the n word, etc

I never planned to be there on either side. I didn’t think it would change hearts and minds and I thought it could go badly. And it did. It was a circus. One aspect that contributed to the spectacle was that the courthouse is surrounded by a road that exits in 4 different directions. Counter-protesters were parked in spaces that face local establishments. The county courthouse sits in the middle. The protesters were staged in front of the south face.

Cars drove around and around, one played an obscene racist song by David Allen Coe. There were 3%ers and Boogaloos and LOTS of weapons openly carried. There were Confederate flags, Pro-Trump flags, Don’t Thread on Me flags and Thin Blue Line flags.

The only scuffle occurred when a young BLM protester attempted to unfurl an American flag with no ill intent and that was misunderstood by a counter-protester to be preparations for burning the flag. It took law enforcement a moment to realize what was happening and step in. After that, law enforcement became more vigilant and protective of the protesters who were outnumbered 5 to 1.

A veteran joined the protesters because during his time in the military, he had stood up for a black person in his unit. He is also running for our district’s state senator and admitted that he may have lost 1,000 votes by being there that day but it was ok. He was also berated by a local citizen for joining with the protesters but stood tall and proud and calm in the face of it.

Sadly, after watching livestream horrified at what was unfolding, by the next morning I could only see that the community had socially lynched the protesters. The thing is – they will come back. Many in the community are embarrassed at the portrayal of our community but it is factually what happened. Many in our community are unrepentant and have not changed their point of view regarding the whole BLM movement. Some probably do fear black people moving into the community and changing the nature of life here.

The county to the north of us has slightly better demographics with 92% white and almost 4.5% black. That is the only place in my own day-to-day living that I happily encounter black people. There was the black guy who used to work in produce in the upscale grocery store I shop at. He was always friendly towards all the customers who came in and I was always happy to briefly chat with him, letting him know how much I appreciated him being there. Sadly he left for better pay driving a truck.

There are my two favorite black people at Panera where I got carry home before the virus caused everything to shut down and I do miss my chance to smile with and exchange pleasantries with them. I have a very fond memory of buying an Etta James cd at WalMart after she died. I was taking it out of my bag to listen to on my drive home when two black girls stopped upon seeing it to tell me how much they loved her music.

The point of sharing all of this with you is, the protesters do plan to come back to our county seat of Fredericktown Missouri. Their sense from experience is that getting the town’s attention is necessary given their previous unexpected reception here. If this next event could turn out very differently, that would be progress. I do know there will be no vehicular traffic into or around the courthouse next time and that should help to cool things off a bit but not entirely. If the community would either stay away or come with the intention of quietly witnessing the protest in a civil manner, that would be progress as well. If they could leave their weapons at home, not bring in the contentious flags and not shout slogans back at the protesters, the community’s portrayal would be very different the next time.

Do I think that is possible ? In reality, probably not. Could I hope we could rise to the challenge ? I do and that is why I have written this.