Local opinions from all over Greater Lansing are submitted in letters to the editor, collected here in a monthly package and in an occasional special section.
This special section, marking one year since the murder of George Floyd, was compiled with the help of Krystal Nurse, reporter for LSJ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.
See our guidelines and FAQs for more information; to submit your 175 word opinion on a local issue, email [email protected]
We must remember who the enemy really is
Some things come to mind when I think about what has changed and what has not changed since the death of George Floyd.
Here in Lansing, Shirley Mitchner is still seeking justice for the unsolved murder of her son Brandon. He was last known in a party limo with friends. Later, his body was found in the Grand River.
People are opposed to each other, but the real enemy is the systems that oppress and divide them. Some are always greedy, rude and intentionally maintain the racist systemic infrastructure by not addressing or denying that there are problems.
On the contrary, there are people here who are coming out of the silos to organize themselves in a merger like that of a campaign of the poor: a national call for moral renewal.
As a moral fusion movement, we fight systemic racism, systemic poverty, ecological devastation, a war economy and a false narrative of religious nationalism. We realize and behave as if ALL of our human problems are interconnected.
LaShawn Erby is a resident of downtown Lansing and a seasoned activist for 30 years.
East Lansing is committed to the fight against racism
So much has happened since the murder of George Floyd last May. We have seen our country erupt into a new civil rights movement centered on policing and racial equity like we have never had a conversation before.
We have seen our country grapple with its original and oldest sin of slavery and racism, and we continue to have these difficult conversations – I believe in a robust and productive way.
We can get rid of racism. We can get rid of all the things that marginalize people, set them back, set them apart, and keep people from being their best and living their most authentic and amazing lives.
In East Lansing, we have made great strides. We have done things that I am particularly proud of as a staff member and as a resident.
Our agreement as a city to become anti-racist set us on a path toward working our hearts out and our duties by engaging resources and personnel to do the job.
We enacted a law to ban the use of police weapons against people doing mundane things.
Last but not least, we have the commitment of city leaders to continue this journey.
I am excited about the possibility of our future. But I also warn: if we don’t pay attention, if we don’t stay diligent, if we don’t become anti-racist, we will back down.
Elaine Hardy is the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Administrator for the City of East Lansing. She also chairs the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mid-Michigan Commission.
MSU listens to the community and acts
The national movement for fairness is felt in almost every community in the United States, including here in East Lansing. But make no mistake, this movement has been around for decades, if not centuries. Last summer, students, faculty and staff brought this movement to campus and challenged the university to do even more to create an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere and break down barriers.
We listened first, and then began to explore other possibilities to engage in meaningful change. Michigan State University first implemented a college-wide requirement that all students, faculty, and staff participate in an online educational module on diversity, equity, and education. ‘inclusion. Less than a month after the start of the national movement, the MSU Police Department implemented changes in its policies and practices.
Our work continued with the chairman’s creation of the DCI Steering Committee, tasked with gathering feedback from across the campus, taking stock of DCI efforts across the university, and establishing a framework for make MSU a national leader in this field.
All of this work – here at MSU and in forward-thinking institutions and businesses in Grand Lansing and across the country – will never be enough to bring back the countless black lives that have been lost and continue to be in the hands of the police. But our actions correspond to our nation’s hope to do and be better.
Jabbar Bennett is vice president and director of diversity at Michigan State University.
We’ve all learned that silence isn’t an option
Austin Channing Brown in “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” said: “… harmony – the absence of outright conflict – often leaves deeper complications intact.” George Floyd’s death sparked protests and sparked a movement for racial justice. Sadly, many of those who live in harmonious communities like mine choose not to see or admit that systemic racism exists.
When people say, “Be nice and you’ll be fine,” I cringe. It is not that simple! We must become allies, in unconditional solidarity with people of color, listening to their stories of oppression, learning the truth about history and speaking out against injustice. Allyship forces us to use our voices and not be silent. Silence makes us complicit in discrimination.
Allyship demands recognition of white privilege and showing integrity – not denying truth and reality. Derek Chauvin got justice. President Joe Biden was elected fairly. Racism exists. Our democracy has been attacked by racists who tried to preserve white privilege. And our two-party system, which is vital to all of our freedoms, has accepted a “no integrity” approach as a means of harmony.
We must stop pretending there is no problem!
Susan Gillings is a lifelong educator and mother of two biracial sons.
Haslett schools and community have a call to action
In June 2020, at a time of civil unrest and pandemic, I (Kikelomo) reflected on how the combination of racist ideas and policies produces and normalizes racial inequalities. I (Sophie) read letters from alumni at the nearby school advocating for more education on BIPOC and wanted to see Haslett make similar changes.
This realization ignited an ambitious spirit within us and other Haslett alumni. Thus, Haslett’s voice for change was born. We wrote a call to action letter to Haslett Public Schools to address the lack of understanding and mutual respect for cultural differences, eliminate discriminatory behavior and reflect the diversity of its staff.
Our goal is to empower students and our community to voice and / or share their concerns and to equip teachers and students with the skills to tackle micro-aggression / racism. We are working with the school board, educators and the community to improve Haslett, from policy changes and curriculum diversification to the creation of an equity planning committee. Haslett is slowly moving towards long-term change for the best of everyone in her community.
Sophie Busch and Kikelomo Sekon are members of Haslett’s Voice of Change.
What has really changed in a year?
What do you do when life gets tough? Fight, flee or freeze? For many of us, our lives changed on May 25, 2020. Did you give up everything you were doing and just watched in awe or did angry emotions flare up in you at this precise moment?
Sometimes life requires you to manage a hand, no pun intended. I learned from a young age that opinions are just opinions until action is taken and then change is brought up. Did you try to bring about a change after May 25th, or did you just think of opinions in your heads over the next few days, months, years? For a brief moment, a percentage of America was made to weigh in on the injustices African Americans have suffered for hundreds of years.
What has changed in a nation already asleep, an awakened spirit? We say that we have become more aware, able to empathize and take care of ourselves. But do we have? Our social media post would tell. In my opinion, a lot has not changed. The projector has momentarily enlarged.
Dayon Williams is a member of the Black Student Union.