Having read a letter to the editor of recent, I feel that a response is not only warranted, but necessary. As citizens of a country with nearly unlimited freedom of speech, we carry an unwritten responsibility to stand up to injustice and ensure that our words are truthful and accurate in context. Language is important, and the subtleties of the words we choose determine how others understand our ideas. What I read in the recent letter were many purposeful misrepresentations of the truth by a man whose professional prefix (Dr.) indicates that he should know better.

Yes, the Black Panther Party (BPP) was not an organization of nonviolence. They presented themselves as militants ready to protect their communities when police, the government, and the justice system did not (and don’t). A Google search will yield the BPP Ten-Point Program, (1966). You will find calls for “justice” and “peace” in education, employment, housing, and access to food and clothing. In this document are calls to end police brutality, defend the 2nd Amendment, and for reparations after centuries of slavery and segregation. Nowhere in the core values of the BPP will you find calls for violence, only for peace, justice, and protection.

By now, we have all heard enough opinions on the George Floyd protests, may he rest in peace and power. To diminish them to only looting and rioting is beside the point, and purposefully so. Doctor, if you are more upset by looting than the systematic murder of Black bodies by the police you so love, I beg the question- where is your humanity?

As far as “assaults” on police, even large crowds of unarmed protestors could hardly assault rows of military-style police officers, armed in riot gear. Again, a simple Google search will show peaceful protestors exercising their 1st Amendment rights, being sprayed with teargas, shot with rubber bullets, shoved to the ground, and driven over by SUVs. Ah, what fierce defenders of the Constitutional right to assemble. Protect and serve.

In response to rioting, Trevor Noah dictated that society is built on a contract. If someone steals, assaults, or otherwise breaks the contract, the delegated authority comes in to enforce it. But what happens if the delegated authority breaks the contract? What happens if they break the contract for hundreds of years? The US has built systems that break the contract every single day. We broke the contract when we redlined our cities, when segregation was the law of the land, when we let our police brutalize Black bodies in the streets. We all break the contract when we don’t stand up to these injustices, because we know they happen daily. If our government breaks the contract without accountability, how dare we expect that BIPOC continue to uphold it when racist systems are rigged against them?

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Black Lives Matter.

Kira Borgman

Grand Rapids


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