Letter to the Editor: Life and death in today’s America 

To the Editor:

In a recent Letter to the Editor concerning the murder of George Floyd and the protests against police brutality, some assertions were made that I find problematic. 

The author writes there might have been a better face for the movement because Floyd had been arrested and jailed numerous times and had drugs in his system at the time of his death. George Floyd did not become the face of the protests because of an unblemished life, but because his appalling death is a stain on American government and society. It is important to note that Floyd had paid his debt to society and then spent his remaining years helping others stay out of trouble and lead better lives. This is the man police murdered. 

The author “takes umbrage with Joseph F. Cistone’s assertion that racism is a white invention.” Cistone is correct. While history (written by white men) records examples of ethnographic distinctions and prejudices going back to the Hebrews and Greeks, racism as we know it  – the theory that human characteristics and abilities are determined by race, and that Black traits are evidence of hereditary inferiority –  is the invention of white 19th century scientists and theorists.
The author counters Cistone’s facts with quotes from Black people, that white privilege is an attempt by the left to divide America” and anyone has the choice to do anything no matter their circumstances. 

In fact, race hatred has long been used to keep people from making common cause against economic injustice. Some of the earliest segregationist laws were passed to keep escaped Black slaves and runaway white servants from socializing – lest they join together to demand fair treatment. Although some Black people may overcome undeserved disadvantages, all white people benefit from unearned advantages. 

My father, the son of Jewish immigrants, worked beside Black men in the fields and factories of the 1930-40s South. He was not a political man nor a preaching man, but in 1960s Brooklyn when I was full of myself for protesting against apartheid, he taught me to recognize de facto and de jure racism. It is not just what individual people do, it is how business as usual is done. When it is the business of government – such as denying GI Bill benefits to Black veterans, gutting Civil Rights legislation and upholding racist voter suppression, it is structural racism; there is no ‘up by your boot straps’ out of that. 

White privilege is being able to walk into a store, go bird watching, use your neighborhood pool, nap in your college dormitory lounge, walk through your grandmother’s backyard, enter your own home, etc., etc., etc., without having the police called on you. And if they are, being pretty certain you won’t be humiliated, assaulted or murdered. This may result from ‘ancestral bias,‘ but it is also life and death in today’s America – on different sides of the ‘color line.’

Annlinn Kruger
Bar Harbor 

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