Letter: No one asked for a coat of paint
A letter to the editor appearing in the July 20 edition of the Steamboat Pilot & Today proposed repainting the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge in response to the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. His proposal and language diminish the power and ignores the demands of the movement from which he claims inspiration. Here’s why:
First, the author applauds the “quiet showing” by local Black Live Matters supporters, which involved “no marching, no angry shouting.” The author here implies that demands made by angry protesters are invalid or unworthy of attention.
This is an example of tone policing — an indispensable tool of white supremacy. We must stop insisting Black people tailor their demands to be palatable and unoffensive to white people. Black Americans have every right to be angry and make demands in a way we cannot ignore. Marching gets the attention of our government and our neighbors. It is only effective, however, when it is disruptive.
Second, the author claims these protests “caused (him) to think more deeply about what type of positive civil action could be demonstrated to show our community support.” He proposes giving the bridge a fresh coat of paint.
The Black Lives Matter movement has a list of demands: freedom from brutal and racially motivated attacks by police officers; equal access to medical care, especially for black women; schools without police officers, so that black children can receive a safe education; affordable and habitable housing; equal job opportunities and promotions; and defunding police, so that these other basic needs can be met. This list of demands does not include repainting a bridge in a wealthy, majority-white ski resort.
Third, the author claims “Mr. Brown surely would not be proud to have his legacy associated with the bridge in its current condition.” By putting words in Mr. Brown’s mouth, the author silences another notable Black voice. Who are we to presume Mr. Brown would even think about the bridge or its paint when police are murdering Black men across the country?
The author’s heart may have been in a good place, but his proposal coopts the momentum a critical national movement for Black lives has gained in recent months. Repainting a bridge to honor the legacy of an important Black musician is a kind-hearted idea, but first, let’s honor the demands of living Black people and fight for their lives.
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