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Letter to the editor: All of us must do more to end systematic racism

Dear editor,

I don’t understand COVID-19, but scientific knowledge isn’t required to know it’s deadly. Combining the disproportionate effect of the virus with the obvious ongoing racially motivated violence against African-Americans, it’s clear many folks ignore the deadly disease called racism, passed down by generations of narrow-minded, fearful people.

I’m a 64-year-old white man from Mississippi. I learned decades ago many individuals never question prejudiced beliefs. In the 11th grade, I was the only white boy on the basketball team, and it’s time I do more for my teammates. Even now, I tear up remembering how they accepted me even though I couldn’t jump high.

How do we cure this bigotry? I’ve started by joining people of all races coming together to declare that systematic racism and murder by policemen won’t be tolerated. But I can do much more.

Staying free from the virus requires wearing masks and social distancing from others. Ending our ignorance and prejudice requires that we take off our callous masks and stop distancing our love from others simply because of their skin color. As Tim Wise said near the end of The “Great White Hoax” documentary, “We have to turn back this 400-year tendency to identify with our skin at the sacrifice of our humanity.”

Iley Behr

Nashville, Tenn. (formerly of Vicksburg)