Editor’s note: This is a rebuttal to a letter written by Mike Riddle which ran in the Sept. 15 issue of the Courier. Riddle wrote that he is offended by former NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s actions of public expression, and suggested the Long County School System discontinue its purchase of Nike products because Nike has tapped Kaepernick as the “new face” of the company’s “Just do it” campaign. Mildred Elder disagrees, describing her own personal and painful experience at the receiving end of racism and focuses on Kaepernick’s underlying reasons for his protests.
I am Mildred Boyd Elder, an 88-year old retired African American educator. I became physically ill when I read Mike Riddle’s letter. I would like to make one request of him, “Walk in my shoes for a few past years.”
First, I was born and raised in Long County. I attended public school where, before integration, my schoolmates and I only had textbooks that your school had discarded. We used wood heaters in the winter and opened the wooden shutters to get fresh air. We had no lunch room and no library. My first check as a teacher was only $136 for a month’s work. My friend and I stopped by your gym and asked if we could watch the basketball game. We were told that we couldn’t, and that was tax supported property.
When I returned to teach in Long County, we still didn’t have a lunchroom, auditorium, gym or library.
My husband was in the Air Force. When he was stationed in California, we could not find a hotel to spend the night, and we had to go to the back windows of public restaurants to get our food. We could not go inside. One trip my husband stopped to get gas. While the man was pumping gas, my husband asked if I and our child could use the restroom. The man said, “H---, no. I don’t let (N-word) use my restroom.” We left and had to stop by the road and go into the bushes to relieve ourselves.
Colin Kaerpernick is not dishonoring the flag, veterans or the police. African Americans have had to fight too hard to become members of the Armed Forces, the police force and all other honorable professions.
Harriett Tubman freed slaves so we could have a voice.
Rosa Parks sat down on the Montgomery bus, so we could sit down, too, and not be segregated.
Malcom X spoke for equality so we would no longer be disfranchised.
Medgar Evans lost his life because he dared to question racial injustice.
Nat Turner started a rebellion because he was tired of being mistreated.
Still, today, here are some facts:
1. Black men are much more likely to be stopped, shot and killed by a police officer than a white man.
2. Racial profiling is rampant where blacks are stopped, frisked, and jailed; especially if they are driving a new car.
3. Hate crimes are being motivated.
4. There are now hate groups in all 50 states.
5. Blacks typically earn less than whites.
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “Now is the time to take the real promise of democracy – that all men are created equal. Protests merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.”
Even though we have fought and protested for racial equality, racism still exists. If you want to end racism, stop forgiving the racists.
Mike Riddle, as an elected official, will you please seek answers to the problems that exist in Long County? We need more businesses, more African American educators, especially men, and we need more diversity.
Don’t seek to kill the messenger. Fix the message and we will all rest in peace.
Mildred Boyd Elder