I write to thank and appreciate the young people who marched through Beardstown on June 3 in support of Black Lives Matter. They are courageous to bring their experiences of living while black and brown, many of which were disheartening to read.
Having grown up in Beardstown, I can recount that at a BHS basketball game in the late 1960s, a black player from Macomb was catcalled with racist epithets. I don’t remember the final score of the game, but in many ways, Beardstown lost that night.
I remember that older townspeople talked in hushed tones about a sign that once was posted on the outskirts of town. It read “N-word, don’t let the sun set on you here.” Or, words to that effect. I never saw the sign, but its existence marks Beardstown as a sundown town, a place where Black people and other people of color were not welcome: not as workers, not as guests, not as residents.
Nonetheless, I grew up knowing there were two non-white families in town and I later wondered how their lives were affected by the attitude expressed on that sign and carried in the minds of some people in town.
Much has changed. JBS and its earlier iterations have brought workers of color to staff the meat-packing plant and who live and raise their kids in town. I hope that residents and readers of this newspaper will take to heart that Beardstownians can be better neighbors to these folks.
And finally, I assure that the phrase Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that all other lives do not matter. Black Lives Matter invites us to reflect on the brutalities endured by Black people at the hands of police. When Black lives matter enough that no Black person need fear interacting with police officers, then none of us will fear those same interactions.
May George Floyd rest in peace and pride.
BHS, Class of 1970