Letter to the Editor: Jen Sheran

Haddonfield resident, member of anti-racist coalition, offers her thoughts on previous correspondence.

Dear Editor, 

I write in response to recent letters upset with Haddonfield Memorial High School junior class fundraiser for Black Lives Matter Philly.  I think it’s great that their choice for Spirit Week has prompted a community conversation. 

Addressing the unsupported claims that BLM is violent, I refer to this report from The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.  It notes that despite the non-violent nature of the vast majority of demonstrations associated with BLM, authorities intervened in 9 percent compared to 3 percent of all other demonstrations.  In those interventions, they used force more than half the time, so more than 5% of protests linked to BLM were met with force versus 1% of other demonstrations.  The report also cites provocateurs, violent counter-protests and “militia” intervention not typical to other demonstrations.  

Regarding the reaction to BLM’s call to defund the police, I share from the radical publication Good Housekeeping: “defunding the police” simply means reducing police department budgets and redistributing those funds towards essential social services that are often underfunded, such as housing, education, employment, mental health care, and youth services.”  In a town like ours where our population is generally/relatively affluent, these needs are largely met.  Calls to defund the police point out that as a nation, we disproportionately spend on punitive programs, even more-so in communities of color.   

Racism is a deep-seated issue that we collectively need to better understand, discuss and tackle. I’m proud that it seems our students are doing that. If someone doesn’t support the organization the class chose, they don’t have to contribute. It’s bold to conclude that the juniors missed something, rather than assume that they thoroughly researched the choices and found that the organization aligned with their values. That teachers and administrators didn’t share Mr. Maynes’ perception does not indicate that they didn’t “encourage critical thinking and debate.”  Further, it’s audacious for (assumedly) white residents from a 96-percent white community to suggest organizations that “better serve the ideals of the BLM movement”, especially when the suggested organizations are focused on individuals or transforming from the “inside out.”  

The “boot straps” philosophy disregards the systemic nature of racism in our country and stagnates progress. To move forward, we’ll need to start listening to and learning from Black voices and examining our institutions instead of having politicized allergic reactions and preaching condescendingly. Critical thinking and debate are two-way streets.

With regard,

Jen Sheran