Dear Editor,

In June 4’s protest cover article I was quoted saying that our community needs to “take a deep dive into what it means to be privileged white people in this country and to support minority voices.” I am writing to hold myself and my fellow white Marinette and Menominee friends to that.

The people who showed up were young, old, professors, religious leaders and everyone in between. As the EagleHerald agrees, it was a positive event our community should have pride in. However, there is two things that the paper neglected to mention: Community backlash and the presence of black people.

When the recent opinion of the EagleHerald says “We don’t believe those issues are prevalent in our local law enforcement. At least we haven’t heard of any problems,” it makes a dangerous untrue assumption that racism has not touched our community. (Editor’s note: The EagleHerald editorial referred to the lack of race issues in the police department.) Racism was dragged into the open with the mere mention of its existence by local white residents publicly threatening to run the protesters over. There was a fear-mongering and wildly false rumor spreading across the community that buses of people (one can only guess the color implied) were coming to destroy our town. There were men with assault rifles representing militarized white supremacy on Main Street. In the end, there was relief that the protesters were the peaceful ones.

These things show that we do in fact have racial prejudices in Marinette and Menominee. The paper did not interview black people from our community who were at the protest. How can it then make a statement which assumes that racial prejudice isn’t a problem here? I will always talk about why I stand for this movement, but the EagleHerald only quoting white people neglects that this movement is truly only about listening to, uplifting, and acting because of black voices. This is white privilege.

I challenge the next protest, subsequent reporting, and city officials to listen to our black community members. Learning about racism in this country will always be a difficult experience because it comes with the knowledge that as white people, we have an unearned advantage from 400 years of legal American racial oppression, even in Northeast Wisconsin. Before you react in defense “but my life is hard too!” Take a moment to grapple with the question “Is it hard because I am white?”

We must do right by the Menominee preschool teacher’s minority students who are “terrified right now.” Let’s exhaust our community resources to find out if that is because of the community they live in and have the bold humility to face the uncomfortable answer that implicates us all as white people.

 

Henry Benson

Marinette