I would like to correct a point from a letter last week regarding the senior picture of Marysville football players holding various flags. The writer, Henry Leistritz, said that I “didn’t like the photo.” I never said any such thing, nor did I think any such thing.
As a member of the Marysville Board of Education, I have no interest in passing judgment on the free expressions of our students. The purpose of public school is to prepare students for active participation in society, and especially, to prepare them to exercise their rights and privileges as citizens. The best way to learn is by doing. I am happy when our students think about what matters to them and find ways to express themselves. That is what these football players did, and I support them in that. I would feel the same if they waved a gay pride flag or took a knee during the national anthem.
The fact that some found the photograph objectionable only deepens the potential for this as a significant educational and political experience. When you make a strong statement, you’re likely to get a strong reaction. Now these players have the opportunity to hear that some find the thin blue line flag to be racist, and they get to figure out what to do with that information. I hope they continue the discussion. Marysville Schools are a very good place to have such discussions because we work hard here to create an atmosphere in which we can talk to each other respectfully about our differences and across our differences. Starting from kindergarten and on up, we help our students express themselves, listen to each other, build trust and a sense of community.
As a private citizen, I would also like to respond to some of the smears that Mr. Leistritz voiced about Black Lives Matter. I am not a founder or an organizer of BLM, but I have had the opportunity to march in a local parade under the Black Lives Matter banner, so to speak. I can tell you that the march was peaceful, the relations with local police were cordial, and Karl Marx was never once mentioned.
Having read the relevant studies, I am aware that there are disparate outcomes at every level of our criminal justice system. For the same conduct, a black person is more likely to be stopped than a white; if stopped, a black person is more likely to be arrested; more likely to be charged, more likely to be convicted, and likely to get a longer sentence—all for the exact same behavior. Also, more likely to be shot, and more likely to be killed.
For me, Black Lives Matter is as much a slogan as it is an organization. It is a slogan that captures the visceral reaction that any moral person has when they confront the reality that here we are, a century and a half after the Emancipation Proclamations, and in certain ways black people are still treated as if their lives don’t matter all that much. What are you supposed to say in the face of that? What else can you say?
Black Lives Matter.
Paver Barnes Road