To the Editor: Close to home 

To the Editor: 

People who grow up white in Maine, like me, sometimes end up with the idea that racism is a problem that happens elsewhere. The truth is racist thinking and racist policies afflict our society everywhere. The worst impacts fall on people of color, but we are all negatively affected. In order to build a society with real liberty and justice for all, we need to work together to eliminate racism, and the first step is acknowledging that it exists. One of the ways I’ve seen racist thinking emerge recently is in the profound misunderstandings that some white Mainers seem to have about Black Lives Matter. 

After the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, the Islander published a story on local political leaders’ reactions to the events. I was dismayed to see several public figures drawing a false equivalence between the events of Jan. 6 and the Black Lives Matter protests. 

On Jan. 28, the Islander reported that incarcerated people in the Hancock County jail have had no access to recovery coaching services since June because Sheriff Kane chose to terminate Healthy Acadia’s contract when Healthy Acadia released a statement in support of Black Lives Matter.  

Black Lives Matter is a movement, as their official website states, “working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise.” If that sounds hyperbolic, consider these statistics: A 2019 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that police use of force is a leading cause of death from young men of color in America, particularly Black men. On Dec. 26, CNN reported that 1 in 1,000 Americans had died of COVID. For Black Americans, the figure at that time was 1 in 800. A 2020 report from the Brookings Institution shows that the net worth of the average white family in America is 10 times that of the average Black family. Generations of discriminatory laws have prevented Black Americans from enjoying many of the benefits that white Americans take for granted. Black lives in the United States are systematically discounted, discredited, and yes, targeted for demise.  

The murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor this summer sparked an enormous wave of protests. The vast majority of them, including the ones here in Hancock County, were peaceful. People exercised their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble, calling on this nation to extend the constitutionally mandated rights of due process and equal protection to all our citizens. The Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, in contrast, aimed to overturn the election and end democracy in America. If our local politicians cannot see a difference between these groups, we need to work harder to educate them, or we need to bring in some new leaders in the next election. 

In the meantime, the inmates at Hancock County Jail were left without recovery coaches for seven months. Racism is striking close to home. But we can make a difference: Healthy Acadia’s contract was reinstated after public outcry. We need to keep calling out racist policies and holding our officials accountable. 

Susan Letcher 

Bar Harbor 

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