Soon after my nephew arrived at Crowder College for his freshman year, he exclaimed, “Everyone here is so nice to me!”  Sadly, living in a community where everyone treats him with respect, is a new experience.  As a small child, he learned that others are often mean.  Eventually, he understood that having a black father results in discrimination.

Recently, my nephew emailed me from Chicago where he is spending the summer with a friend’s family.

“As for how life is going... I’ve been doing my best to stay safe. The city is way more dangerous when it comes to these protests, and its closer to me than Ferguson was. I’m very fearful, they send military here and have set curfews. I’m so proud of the people working for equality, and even though it’s scary I know it’s necessary. 

(My friend) has been insistent on me staying inside for now. We’re going to try and work at Door Dash together, but black men in their cars aren’t even safe. This virus, the brutality and rising supremacy… I feel so helpless because I’m an automatic target for racists, so I can’t do anything right now but hide. Our president has called black people thugs. I just feel so hopeless right now.“

I responded to my nephew’s expressions of fear and confusion.

“I appreciate that you shared your feelings with me.

I agree that Chicago does look scary.  I’m very thankful that you are staying in, both to stay safe from the virus and from the chaos on the streets.

This is a defining time in your life.  You are making the basic decisions that determine your future.  And you are doing it during a world pandemic and nationwide civil unrest.  You are highly intelligent and motivated, with a winning personality and good common sense.  I am very proud of how you are taking advantage of your opportunities and trying to make the best possible choices for your future.

Civil unrest is scary, but the daytime protesters are engaged in an important movement.  It’s bigger than the demand for fair treatment of blacks by police.  It’s a protest against the inequality in education, housing and job opportunities.  It’s a protest against the lack of health care that is putting black lives in disproportionate danger from coronavirus.

Unfortunately, the smaller groups of nighttime rioters and looters in every city are in danger of undoing the good of the peaceful protesters.  There is much media speculation, but apparently no proof, that the rioting is being instigated by outside interests. 

My guess is that most of the rioters are people who would behave that way all the time, if they could get away with it.  They are damaging an important protest movement for the thrill of doing damage and getting stuff out of stores.  It only takes a few to undermine the good of thousands.”

It is way overdue for all Americans to demand an end to racial discrimination.  One day soon, I want to hear my nephew declare, “I feel hopeful!”

-Susannah Smith is one of a group of like-minded friends who alternate writing a column, Another Point of View, for The Neosho Daily News.