I was very disturbed to see that the billboard on Highway 93 in Kalispell relating to the murder of George Floyd and highlighting the Black Lives Matter movement was vandalized with paint just days after it was installed.
It is disturbing to see the very idea that the lives of black people “matter” – have significance and value – can be treated with such utter contempt.
It is disturbing to realize that some people in our community fear that acknowledging the value of another’s life is somehow an attack on the value of their own.
It is disturbing to contemplate the message this sends to black people and other minority ethnicities in our community.
Finally, it is disturbing because I have a “Black Lives Matter” button on my jacket. Am I at risk of someone throwing paint at me? If a 53-year-old white man has such a fear, can you imagine the anxiety felt by black people and other ethnic minorities?
It will be easy for many to dismiss the billboard attack as the senseless act of a handful of ignorant hatemongers, and maybe the actual thrown paint is.
But the sentiment behind the paint is something I have heard explicitly on numerous occasions among the people I work with; good, decent people who go to church, pay their taxes, and who work and teach in our schools.
When I’m around them at coffee breaks and at lunch, I feel my airway tighten up, deciding how ignorant and hateful the talk is before I have to speak up, knowing I might very well be disagreeing with every person in the room … and that’s when I feel that I can’t breathe either.
The Flathead Valley is better than this. For the sake of us all, we must be better than this.
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