Marker to Recall Segregation of Miller Park

"Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

1940: Miller Park's whites-only beach.

1940: Miller Park's whites-only beach.

That famous quote attributed to Edmund Burke, a one-time orator, political theorist and British member of parliament, is behind a new effort at Bloomington's oldest park.

The Illinois State Historical Society is putting up a marker to stand as a permanent reminder of the history of racial segregation at Bloomington’s Miller Park.

From 1908 and into the early 1950s when the beach was closed for a time, the swimming area at Miller Park was divided by a well-maintained section with a lifeguard and an unkempt, unguarded section labeled “Blacks Only.”

The Community Has A Secret

Mark Wyman, a retired Illinois State University distinguished emeritus history professor, said when the beach was reopened in 1957, there were no references to the decades of segregation.


The marker the McLean County League of Women Voters erected in Franklin Park in 2005 to recognize the local resident who was the first woman elected to the Illinois Senate.

Credit Illinois State Historical Society

"I saw the secret really develop then because in all of the editorials about reopening and in the speeches by the mayor, no mention that it used to be segregated until it closed in 1953," said Wyman, who along with historian Jack Muirhead researched the history and interviewed residents about what they knew about the separate and not-so-equal policies at Miller Park lake.

“People were not aware of that. ‘Did we ever have segregation here?’ they asked longtime residents. The replies were all the same, ‘No, too far north. No, never heard of it.’ Wyman said he and Muirhead heard the same response many times. "That’s when I realized this community has a secret."

The NAACP is supporting the project along with the McLean County Museum of History and the Not In Our Town (NIOT) coalition. Camille Taylor of NIOT said history has a way of repeating itself, so the marker is an important recognition of this community's ability to discriminate.

"Our mission is to stop hate, address bullying and to make a safe, more inclusive community for all so the things that Mark describes would certainly be under that mission in terms of sharing the history of segregation and where we are now as a community," Taylor said.

Taylor was involved in The Bloomington-Normal Black History Project, formed in 1982 to document the local history of the local black community with a collection that now contains photographs, portraits, booklets, articles, and artifacts.

The former Unit 5 counselor used those artifacts and documents for presentations during Black History Month at area schools. She said students could not understand why blacks were not allowed to swim in the same section of Miller Park lake.

"When I talked about Miller Park and a little girl named Phyllis Hogan who had to swim in the segregated part of the lake that had lots of debris and she got caught up in it and drown and some of the children were the same age as this little girl ... they couldn't believe it. They would ask, 'Why would they make those people do that?'" she said.

"That's when I realized this community has a secret."

Taylor said the students hearing those presentations in the 1980s and 1990s had no idea about this kind of treatment of blacks in their own community.

"Their eyes opened as big as saucers when they would hear things like the cheerleaders at Bloomington High School, going downtown to the square after a game and they wouldn't be served if a black cheerleader was with them, so all the cheerleaders got up and left," Taylor said about how the children responded to her accounts of discrimination.

She said the historic marker will be permanent and do more good to educate people and bring awareness than what she was able to accomplish through her school visits.


Plenty of Support

Wyman said he has encountered no opposition from city leaders including Alderman Karen Schmidt whose ward includes Miller Park. He was never worried about raising the estimated $4,000 to erect the marker and he says once he began talking about it, the money flowed in.

"Right away when I would mention it in talking to groups around town about our segregation past people would come out and say, 'I want to donate.'" He said several individuals who read about it in the McLean County Historical Society newsletter contacted us and offered donations.

The marker will measure 44 by 51 inches. There has not been an Illinois State Historical Society marker erected in the Bloomington-Normal area since 2005. Twelve years ago, the McLean County League of Women Voters sponsored a marker on the east side of Franklin Park honoring the life and career of pioneering lawmaker and community leader Florence Fifer Bohrer.

Wyman said plans are to put up the marker sometime this spring.

It includes 16 lines of text including a final line that reads, “Today, Miller Park—like all city facilities—is open to all.” 

Two-Day Conference to Address Trump-Era Environment, Microaggressions

The two-day Social, Ethnic, and Racial Boundaries on Campus and Community in the 21st Century, Feb. 9-10 at Illinois State University, will examine race, ethnicity, and microaggression both on campuses and communities, in light of the new political developments in the United States, both local and national.


The gathering, beginning at 8:15 a.m. Feb. 9 and 9 a.m. Feb. 10 in the Bone Student Center's Prairie Center Room, will offer insights from international scholars, keynote speakers, and local community leaders, as well as discussion panels and roundtables dialogues and films.

The program is free and open to the public.

The Feb. 9 program is dedicated to “Race and Immigration Under the Trump Administration,” with Saturday examining “Microaggressions in Everyday Life.” Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.

Here are highlights of the Feb. 10 itinerary:

9-10 a.m.: What is Microaggression?: How is Microaggression Different from Racism, Sexism, and Age-Segregation?
Chair: R.J. Rowley (Associate Professor of Geography, Geology, and the Environment, ISU)

Yolanda Flores Niemann (Professor of Psychology, University of North Texas)
Title: Microaggressions in the Classroom: What We’ve Learned from Student, Faculty, and Staff Responses to the Microaggressions in the Classroom (video)

Brea Banks (Assistant Professor of Psychology, ISU)
Title: Intersectionality and Microaggression


10:10-11:10 a.m.: Sexism, the LGBTQ Community, and Microaggressions
Chair and Moderator: Tom Gerschick (Associate Professor of Sociology, ISU)

Tanya Diaz-Kozlowski (Instructional Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, ISU)
Title: Micro-aggressions, School Climate, and Educational Equity: A Critical Praxis Approach

Presenters: Dave Bentlin (President, Prairie Pride Coalition), Liv Stone (Assistant Professor of Anthropology, ISU), Jacklyn Weier (Graduate student in Anthropology, ISU), and Diane Zosky (Director of School Social Work, ISU)


11:20 a.m.-1:20 p.m.: Lunch Banquet
Introduction: Mayuko Nakamura (Coordinator of Faculty Development, Instructional Technology and Media in Teaching, Learning, and Technology, ISU)

Keynote Address by Dr. Yolanda Flores Niemann (Professor of Psychology, University of North Texas)
Title: Subjective Experiences of Microaggressions from the Lenses of Others: Being an Ally and Developing Alliances Across and Within Demographic Groups

1:30-2:30 p.m.: The Social, Emotional, and Academic Cost of Campus Microaggressions: What Institutions of Higher Education Can Do to Promote a Positive Campus Climate for all Students.
Chair and Moderator: Lou Perez (Emeritus Professor of History, ISU)

Doris Houston (Co-director of African-American Studies, and Associate Professor of Social Work, ISU) and Rocío Rivadeneyra (Director of Honors Program)
Title: Enhancing the Campus Climate through Diversity in Curriculum: What All Students Need to Learn About Power, Privilege, and Equity in The United States

Presenters: Multicultural Student Panel from ISU


2:40-3:40 p.m.: Workshop: Aging Within a Youth-Oriented Community: Age-Segregated Programs and Places, and Potential for a Fulfilling “Third Age.”
Chair and Moderator: Maria Smith (Professor of Anthropology, ISU)
Presenters: Chris Wellin (Director of the Gerontology Program in Sociology and Anthropology, ISU); Mindy Morgan (Director of the City of Normal Activity and Recreation Center, [ARC]).

3:40-3:55 p.m.: Closing Remarks
James Stanlaw (Professor of Anthropology, ISU)

Sponsors for the conference include Illinois State University’s College of Arts and Sciences, Multi-Ethnic Cultural and Co-Curricular Programming Advisory Committee (MECCPAC), the School of Social Work, the Department of History, the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, the Department of Politics and Government, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, The LGBT/Queer Studies and Services Institute, Milner Library, the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT), and the Harold K. Sage Fund and the Illinois State University Foundation. The event is organized by the Ethnicity and Ethnography Laboratory and Research Center (EELRC) at Illinois State University.


Mass Choir to Sing Out In Commemoration of Charlottesville

Nine local congregations will rise up together in a song of hope and humanity at Monday's Unity in the Community interfaith gathering to address the recent Charlottesville tragedy, at 7 p.m. at Bloomington First Christian Church.

The gathering is open to the public, and Twin Citians of all faiths as well as non-believers and others are welcome. The service will feature a mass choral performance of the anthem "Goodness is Stronger Than Evil," with words by Desmond Tutu.

"Having a mass choir, with the choirs of all these different churches, shows the diversity that we all can contribute, to share our passion that love is stronger than evil," said service co-coordinator and First Christian's music director Rev. Holly Irvin. "We can sing that message together."

In a statement by "faith leaders of Bloomington-Normal," they stressed they "abhor the loss of life, the dishonoring of the children of the Divine, the insults hurled, and the wounds of history re-opened."

"Events such as these inflict injury which damages our minds, bodies and spirits: the totality of our humanity," a group of several dozen leaders of various faiths stated. "At times such as these, the faiths which sustain us separately come together to assure us that love remains the most powerful force in human existence, allowing no room for hatred, bigotry, discrimination, and violence.

"Hatred is the poison of the spirit. The resulting fear cut us off from the holy, from goodness, beauty and ultimately, life. It is love that truly confronts the corruptions of racism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and discrimination of all forms."

interfaith gathering flyer art.jpg

Against All Odds to Examine Black Pursuit of the American Dream

against all odds FB tease camille.jpg

AGAINST ALL ODDS: The Fight for a Black Middle Class, will be screened at 7 p.m. Sept. 26 at Normal First United Methodist Church, offering Twin Citians a chance to examine and discuss challenges to and efforts to overcome racism and discrimination in America.

“Have black Americans had a fair shot at the American dream?” acclaimed journalist Bob Herbert asks. The question is answered in AGAINST ALL ODDS: The Fight for a Black Middle Class, a documentary that probes the harsh and often brutal discrimination that has made it extremely difficult for African-Americans to establish a middle-class standard of living.

A panel discussion will follow the film, which is open to the public.

“Whites talk about working hard and playing by the rules. But blacks have always had to play by a different, hateful set of hideously unfair rules. Working hard has never been enough for black Americans to flourish,” Herbert says in the film’s opening. Then, through dramatic historical footage and deeply moving personal interviews, he explores the often frustrated efforts of black families to pursue the American dream.

Today many African American families are still digging out of the recession that followed the Great Crash of 2007-08, and although some are doing better, black wealth remains meager compared to the white middle class. Nearly 40 percent of black children are poor, and for every dollar of wealth in the hands of the average white family, the typical black family has only a little more than a nickel.

This revealing and sometimes shocking documentary connects the dots of American history to reveal how the traditional route up the economic ladder by attaining a job that pays a living wage and then buying a house — is a financial ascent that has been systematically denied to black families. Reduced educational opportunity, rampant employment discrimination, the inequitable application of the GI bill, mortgage redlining and virulent housing segregation are among the injustices that have converged to limit the prosperity of black families from generation to generation.

Bob Herbert has been covering and commenting on American politics, poverty, racism and social issues for over 45 years through his tenure as a nationally-syndicated op-ed columnist for The New York Times as well as work for other newspapers and broadcast media. Growing up in New Jersey, the son of an upholsterer whose prosperous business was hobbled by banks unwilling to offer loans to blacks, Herbert had an intimate view of the barriers that faced striving black families. His interviews with prominent African Americans, including Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Isabelle Wilkerson, Congressman Elijah Cummings, renowned psychologist and author Alvin Poussaint, and policy activist Angela Glover Blackwell, as well as other accomplished black professionals, uncover generational stories of profoundly damaging economic and social prejudice.

In AGAINST ALL ODDS, Herbert looks back at the uphill struggle facing black families freed from slavery over a century and a half ago and emerging from life as uneducated sharecroppers in the South. He traces the barriers to employment and housing designed to keep black people “in their place” both in southern states and in northern states as African Americans migrated throughout the country in search of opportunity and a better life. Shocking footage from the the 50s and 60s in Chicago shows how black families trying to escape overcrowded ghettos faced riots if they moved to a white block or a white suburb. Beryl Satter, an author whose father, a white lawyer, fought against discrimination in Chicago, tells Herbert, “This whole history of white rioting and white violence has been historically buried. When people think of violence and riots in the street, they always think of the 1960s when black people rioted, but when white people rioted, it doesn’t even have a name.”

For those blacks who have made it, and acquired a middle class lifestyle in suburban neighborhoods like those in Prince George’s County, Maryland, the foothold feels tenuous. Brent and Karla Swinton live there in a lovely home and both have good jobs. But Brent says, “We may have arrived to a degree but we just got here so it’s, it’s still not quite the same.” The reality behind that sense of insecurity was abundantly clear following the Great Recession when widespread foreclosures stripped wealth out of the black community.

Yet through it all, Herbert reports, black Americans have shown time and again a tremendous resilience in the face of cruelty and injustice and a determination to get their fair share of the American dream. Herbert says, “There are no barriers that can’t be overcome. When dreams remain unrealized, it simply means the fight goes on.”

Councilwoman: Words Alone Won't Combat Racism

Howard Packowitz



The first African-American elected to the Normal Town Council believes it will take a lot more than inspired rhetoric to end racial bias in the town.

The council this week received recommendations from a group of community leaders studying race relations and law enforcement.

Council member Chemberly Cummings, who was elected earlier this year, said Normal “can’t be a town of words, but a place of action.”

The issue, said Cummings, extends beyond the police department. She called for continuous vigilance to ensure everyone feels welcome in Normal.

“That we all feel safe, whether it’s from our neighbor or from our police. And, we have to all be willing to do the work,” said Cummings.

“Not to just be the words, but be the workers,” she added.

Committee members and one of the leaders of the local Black Lives Matter organization praised Normal City Manager Mark Peterson for acknowledging racial bias exists in the police department and generally all parts of the community, although he said it’s mainly on the subconscious level.

The committee, which met privately since January, is ready for public input, and recommends the town council form a community policing culture board.

Specific aspects of such a commission have yet to be determined, but Police Chief Rick Bleichner is participating in working out the details.

In Bloomington, Police Chief Brendan Heffner objected to creation of a civilian review board. Aldermen set up the board to improve community relations with police and to make sure the department follows proper procedures when investigating citizens’ complaints against officers.

Hate In Our Backyard?: The Creativity Movement

Check out the Southern Poverty Law Center's online Hate Map, and you'll find 917 hate groups currently scattered about the U.S. -- at last count. A cluster of swastikas dot Central Illinois, and in its midst, you'll find the Creativity Movement, headquartered according to the center in Bloomington.

Matt Hale, former leader of the Movement, was convicted in 2004 of trying to solicit the murder of the federal judge who presided over a copyright trial involving his group, which was then using the name of a non-racist church. He is currently serving a 40-year-sentence at a supermax facility in Colorado. But his movement, like other larger supremacist groups, continues to seek a broader footprint in several states.

In addition to the Creativity Movement, Illinois also is identified as home to the statewide Aryan Nation Sadistic Souls and Soldiers of Odin, the Morton-based Divine International Church of the Web, and Peoria's anti-LGBTQ Illinois Family Institute Tri-County Chapter.  

A self-styled religious organization, the Creativity Movementpromotes what it sees as the inherent superiority and "creativity" of the white race — about the only tenets there are to its supposed "theology." The group was formed in 1973 as the Church of the Creator and was later renamed the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC).

After the 1993 suicide of Ben Klassen, who initially formed the group in 1973 as the Church of the Creator and wrote a number of foundational texts, new leader Matt Hale renamed it the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC) in 1996. The group, largely composed of racist skinheads, developed a reputation for the rampant criminal violence of its members and the verbal violence of Hale. After Hale was convicted of soliciting the murder of a federal judge in 2004 — and the group was ordered to change its name because of a ruling in a copyright infringement trial — the once-formidable outfit now known as the Creativity Movement all but collapsed, leaving only weak remnants.

In Its Own Words
"We gird for total war against the Jews and the rest of the goddamned mud races of the world — politically, militantly, financially, morally and religiously. In fact, we regard it as the heart of our religious creed, and as the most sacred credo of all. We regard it as a holy war to the finish — a racial holy war. Rahowa! is INEVITABLE.  … No longer can the mud races and the White Race live on the same planet."
— Founder Ben Klassen, 1987 

"[W]e are today engulfed in a major worldwide revolution that constitutes a major turning point in the history of the human race, and the outcome will either be a catastrophe of gigantic proportions or it will usher in a new age of greatness and well-being for the human race. … If the evil forces led by the Jews are victorious, future humanity is doomed to tens of thousands of years of slavery, misery, and bestiality, a situation from which there is no reversal and from which it can never recover. If, on the other hand, the White Race wins, led by the program and vision of Creativity, a bright and beautiful new world will emerge."
— Ben Klassen, "A Call to Action"

"The ‘W' of our Emblem stands, of course, for the WHITE RACE, which we regard as the most precious treasure on the face of the earth. The Crown signifies our Aristocratic position in Nature's scheme of things, indicating that we are the ELITE. The Halo indicates that we regard our race as being UNIQUE and SACRED above all other values."
— Webmaster, creativitymovement.net, 2005 

The Creativity Movement was formed in 1973 by the late racist Ben Klassen under the name Church of the Creator (COTC). Its adherents believe that race, not religion, is the embodiment of absolute truth and that the white race is the highest expression of culture and civilization. Jews and non-whites are considered subhuman "mud races" who conspire to subjugate whites. While Klassen's "religion" attracted few followers at first, by the late 1980s, increasing numbers of white supremacists were drawn to his Nazi-like belief system, which was spelled out in a whole series of Klassen books that included such titles as Nature's Eternal Religion, Rahowa! This Planet Is All Ours, and The White Man's Bible.

Creators, as Creativity followers call themselves, have sometimes literally taken up the movement's calls for RAHOWA — or "racial holy war" — by committing violent hate crimes. Creativity "reverend" George Loeb, for instance, was convicted of the racially motivated murder of Harold Mansfield Jr., a black sailor and Gulf War veteran, in Mayport, Fla., in 1991. In 1993, eight individuals with ties to the COTC were arrested in Southern California for plotting to bomb a black church in L.A. and assassinate Rodney King, whose videotaped beating by white police officers in 1991 had sparked national outrage. Later in 1993, Jeremiah Knesal, a member of the COTC, was found with weapons, ammunition and hate literature in his car; he later confessed to his involvement in a July 1993 firebombing of an NAACP office in Tacoma, Wash. Later (see below), a close associate of the group's leader would go on a murderous racist rampage before police killed him.

In 1992, anticipating a civil lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in connection with the Mansfield murder, Klassen sold most of his Otto, N.C., compound at a fire-sale price to William Pierce, founder and leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance. After searching for a successor to head his group, Klassen, a former Florida state legislator and inventor of one version of the electric can opener, then committed suicide in 1993 by swallowing four bottles of sleeping pills. After his death, his successor, Richard "Rick" McClarty, failed to defend COTC in the 1994 lawsuit SPLC did bring on behalf of Mansfield's family. As a result, Mansfield's family was awarded a $1 million default judgment. (Later, the SPLC also sued Pierce, who had immediately resold the Otto land at an $85,000 profit, for engaging in a scheme to defraud Mansfield's estate. Pierce was forced to give up the profit he had made on the resale of Klassen's land.) 

Matt Hale

Matt Hale

In 1995, the organization came back to life under the leadership of Matt Hale. An avowed racist from an early age, Hale discovered the COTC in the early 1990s while going to school at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill, near his home. Joining the group in 1995, he seized control in 1996, changing its name to World Church of the Creator (WCTOC) and adopting for himself the title Pontifex Maximus ("highest priest"). Unusually well educated for a neo-Nazi (he ultimately earned a law degree in the late 1990s), Hale managed to revitalize an organization that had virtually collapsed after Klassen's death. From 14 chapters in 1996, WCOTC grew to 88 chapters by 2002, making it the neo-Nazi group with the largest number of chapters in America. Hale also built up the group's Web presence in the late 1990s, and proved adept at winning national publicity on a number of occasions.

But Hale also proved to be a bit of a cartoon character. He had spent almost his entire life living in his retired father's two-story house in East Peoria, operating out of an upstairs bedroom painted red to depict the blood of the white race. He never held a serious job, sported a Hitler wristwatch and used an Israeli flag as a doormat outside his room. He kept a collection of teddy bears on his bed, and although he eventually married — twice — neither union lasted more than a few months. 

Hale's talk was big, but his walk was small. He told reporters that he had as many as 80,000 followers — a patently ludicrous assertion for a group that never had more than several hundred. He received national publicity for a Web page he put up that was supposedly meant to recruit young children — but confided to insiders that it was a publicity stunt (and a very successful one, at that) aimed at generating media interest. Hale appeared repeatedly on NBC's "Today" show and other national TV news programs and a leading New York Times columnist once described him as "the face of hate" in America. But the mundane reality was that Hale, while depicting himself as a red-hot leader ready to lead the revolution, spent much of his time lecturing in tiny library rooms under heavy police protection. Matt Hale, some of his crueler detractors joked, was rescuing the white race one library at a time. 

Even so, Hale's group has attracted a number of sociopaths and other violently inclined individuals. In 1999, Ben Smith, a close friend of Hale even though the Illinois führer later denied it, left two non-whites dead and nine others wounded in Illinois and Indiana after a shooting spree that was spurred by the refusal of the Illinois Bar Association to grant Hale a law license. Another acolyte, Erica Chase, was convicted in fall 2002 in a plot to blow up landmarks on the East Coast. Other Hale's followers, many of them concentrated in Florida, have been arrested for aggravated assault, armed robbery, witness intimidation and attempted murder.  

While Hale's efforts to market himself and his organization earned him a great deal of public notoriety, internal conflicts were ripping WCOTC apart. In 1999, after the Ben Smith rampage, the state of Illinois sued Hale's group, which had claimed tax-exempt status, for failing to register as a charity and disclose its finances as required by state law. Hale claimed that as a "church" WCOTC was not required to register, but in 2001 he was finally ordered to do so. After appealing the Illinois Bar Association's refusal to grant him a law license all the way to the Supreme Court, Hale also lost his bid to become an Illinois lawyer. Although he had passed the bar exam, the association found that he was not morally fit. A similar attempt to get licensed in Montana also failed. 

Starting in 2001, the WCOTC began to suffer from internal splits and defections. In December of that year, Hale — described as a misogynist by some insiders — lost his two most important female activists. Lisa Turner and Melody LaRue, who led WCOTC's efforts to recruit women in their roles at the head of the Sisterhood of the WCOTC, quit the organization. Turner cited her mother's failing health, while LaRue wrote cryptically that many of her reasons were "of a personal nature." With other female former Creators, LaRue set up Hypatia Publishing on the model of the Sisterhood. Hypatia built a website and began publishing Sisterhood magazine.  

Just a few months later, in March 2002, Hale expelled long-time Montana Creators Dan Hassett and Slim Deardorff, who had helped him win his Pontifex Maximus title back in 1996. Hale told followers that he'd sent the men $8,740 in WCOTC funds for safekeeping after the group was sued by the families of Ben Smith's victims. (The civil suit was ultimately unsuccessful.) Hassett and Deardorff bought gold with the money, burying it near Deardorff's Montana cabin. Hale said the men later claimed the cabin burned down and the money had been lost. Enraged, Hale accused the men of embezzlement and "treason." In May 2002, after Hale made his accusations, Hassett, Deardorff and three other Creators – men who had once elevated Hale to leader — fired back. They sent Hale a letter informing him that he was no longer WCOTC's leader. Hale ignored the rebels, but Hassett and Deardorff started a rival, though short-lived, "Northwest Church of the Creator."

These losses were setbacks for Hale, but by far the most important threat to WCOTC came from a trademark complaint that was brought against Hale and the WCOTC by the TE-TA-MA Truth Foundation, a peace-loving, multicultural church in Oregon that supports "the Family unification of Mankind." In 1987, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office accepted the foundation's application request to copyright the name "Church of the Creator," which was the title it used for its own church. After the required five-year wait for any challenges to that application, the foundation's ownership of the name became legally incontestable, even though Creators had used it since COTC's founding in 1973. In May 2000, after years of enduring confusion between Hale's violently racist outfit and its own peaceful church, the foundation sued the WCOTC. Hale won the first round in January 2002, when U.S. District Court Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow ruled in WCOTC's favor. But an appeals court reversed the decision, sending the case back to Lefkow for reconsideration.  

Abiding by the appeals court decision that July, Lefkow ruled against Hale, issuing a toughly worded injunction that forbade the WCOTC from using the term "Church of the Creator." The WCOTC was ordered to give up its website domain names and remove or cover up the phrase "Church of the Creator" on all WCOTC publications and other products. Vowing to defy her, Hale transferred the WCOTC's publications and its "world headquarters" to Riverton, Wyo., in an apparent bid to keep its assets safe from the court. "No tyrant's paws will ensnare our Holy Scriptures," Hale said, adding that Wyoming state leader Thomas Kroenke was being elevated, in effect, to second in command ("Hasta Primus," or Spearhead) of the WCOTC. 

On Jan. 8, 2003, Matt Hale arrived at the federal courthouse in downtown Chicago to face a contempt hearing for refusing to comply with Judge Lefkow's order. There, he was seized by agents of the Joint Terrorism Task Force and arrested for asking his own security chief to assassinate Judge Lefkow. It turned out that the FBI, which had seen Hale as a dangerous threat ever since the Ben Smith rampage, had recruited Tony Evola, the security chief, as an informant. After four years of wearing a wire, Evola received an E-mail from Hale under the heading "assignment" and asking him to find out Lefkow's home address. A number of cryptic comments from Hale that were taped by Evola ultimately provided enough for prosecutors to charge Hale with solicitation of Lefkow's murder. Finally, in 2004, Hale was found guilty of one count of solicitation of murder and three counts of obstruction of justice. He was acquitted of a second count of solicitation of murder. A year later, Hale received a 40-year sentence in federal prison, the maximum possible sentence for his offense.   

In the course of Hale's trial and ultimate conviction, the WCOTC essentially collapsed. From 88 chapters in 2002, the group fell to just five the following year. After Hale's conviction, loyalists of the WCOTC, now renamed the Creativity Movement, scheduled an "emergency meeting" to select a new "interim" leader. But there weren't many Creators left to lead. One Montana Creator went out with a bang in 2003, taking 4,100 of the "holy books" written by Klassen from the storage shed where they had been shipped for safekeeping. Identified in newspaper accounts only as "Carl," the man hauled off every last holy book and then peddled them to the anti-racist Montana Human Rights Network — for a token $300. 

For details on other hate groups, visit the Southern Poverty Law Center at https://www.splcenter.org/hate-map



May 1 March Aimed at Unity With Immigrants

The Day of Resistance/Keep Families Together March, 5:30 p.m. May 1 at the McLean County Historical Museum, marks a day of solidarity with immigrants and their families aimed at resisting human rights abuses, racism, and oppression.

The event will be hosted by the Immigrant & Refugee Support Network of Central Illinois, Illinois People's Action, and YWCA McLean County.

"Most of us never have to think about what our children would do if they arrived home from school and we weren’t there — just vanishing from their lives," event organizers state. "But that is the reality for some members of our community. Just last year, 53 people were transferred to immigration custody directly from our county jail and many more have been torn apart by deportation."

The new administration’s immigration policies are placing families under increasing threat of being "devastated by an unjust immigration system, and immigrants in our community are living in constant fear," they report. "As a community, we must stand up with and for our neighbors and take action to ensure immigrant families are protected in McLean County. March with us for justice, dignity and freedom for all!"

Speak Up: Responding to Bigotry

The Southern Poverty Law Center gathered hundreds of stories of everyday bigotry from people across the United States. They told their stories through e-mail, personal interviews and at roundtable discussions in four cities. People spoke about encounters in stores and restaurants, on streets and in schools. No matter the location or relationship, the stories echo each other.

Your brother routinely makes anti-Semitic comments. Your neighbor uses the N-word in casual conversation. Your co-worker ribs you about your Italian surname, asking if you're in the mafia. Your classmate insults something by saying, "That's so gay."

And you stand there, in silence, thinking, "What can I say in response to that?" Or you laugh along, uncomfortably. Or, frustrated or angry, you walk away without saying anything, thinking later, "I should have said something."

People spoke about encounters in stores and restaurants, on streets and in schools. They spoke about family, friends, classmates and co-workers. They told us what they did or didn't say — and what they wished they did or didn't say.

And no matter the location or relationship, the stories echo each other.

When a Native American man at one roundtable discussion spoke of feeling ostracized at work, a Jewish woman nodded in support. When an African American woman told of daily indignities of racism at school, a white man leaned forward and asked what he could do to help. When an elderly lesbian spoke of finally feeling brave enough to wear a rainbow pin in public, those around the table applauded her courage.

For more insights, visit  https://www.splcenter.org/20150126/speak-responding-everyday-bigotry

Uptown Christmas Embraces Inclusivity

In the wake of the social media furor over the Minnesota Mall of America's first African-American Santa Claus, Uptown Normal and the NAACP proudly partnered in an inclusive holiday at Santa's Station uptown.

All volunteers Saturday were persons of color, "in the hopes of creating a more inclusive experience for members of our community."

The Mall of America, the largest indoor shopping center in the United States in Bloomington, Minnesota, had never hosted a black Santa for its Christmas festivities since it opened in 1992. This year the owners of the Mall of America’s Santa Experience decided to change that and sought out multicultural Santas to add to their roster.

That search resulted in the discovery of Larry Jefferson, a retired U.S. Army veteran who’s been working as Santa throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 1999. After meeting another Santa from the Mall of America at a Santa convention in Missouri, Jefferson was interviewed and hired to work at the shopping behemoth for four days.

Unfortunately, the mall's decision met with a torrent of racist posts and comments on social media. 

"You know, I’m just Santa, and it has been blessing to see all kids smile when they see me," Jefferson responded. "I’m a Santa for all. Whether it’s African-American kids, Hispanic, Asian, caucasian, it doesn’t matter. It’s not about race for me. Santa is Santa. But for kids to see a Santa that looks like them is like, wow!"


NIOS Highlights School Efforts During Campus Conference

Not In Our Town: Bloomington/Normal-Not In Our School outlined recent efforts to create a safer, more inclusive scholastic environment during Monday's Culturally Responsive Campus Community conference at Illinois State University.

Forty-two high school and college students -- including Normal West Community High School senior Anniah Watson and Normal Community High School senior Aishwayra Shekara, as well as faculty members attended the afternoon session in ISU's Old Main Room. College participants were primarily social work and education majors; Jessica Jackson, a Normal West Project Oz specialist who has sponsored NIOS along with Normal West social studies teacher John Bierbaum, reviewed racism, homophobia, and other concerns as well as ongoing anti-bullying/anti-bigotry initiatives at West.

NIOT/NIOS presenters highlighted a number of recent activities aimed at fostering inclusivity in area schools, including:

Operation Beautiful, a website that offered NIOS students at Normal Community the inspiration to write positive messages on post it notes and put one on each student's locker for them to find when they arrived at school the next morning.

In Their Words,  NIOS students at Normal West shared negative experiences such as name calling and teacher-ignored issues and their impact via a video shared with faculty.

Basketball game fundraiser. NIOS students raised funds to support a local mental health agency by holding a staff vs students  game at Normal West. At the admission table, individuals were asked to sign a NIOT pledge card

Pledge card drives. Both high schools have conducted additional pledge card drives.

School NIOS banners designed by the NIOT Marketing Committee. School districts have purchased them for each NIOT partner schools. In addition, posters that mirror the banners are available and being displayed in NIOS partner classrooms.

Culture Showcase. NIOS students at Normal West who organized a talent/sharing of culture show at Normal West H.S. in May 2016.

Culture Fair. NIOS students at Normal Community organized a fair during lunch time that featured foods, dress, and facts from various cultures.

Identifying safe people and places to talk. As students reveal issues at their schools (particularly the high school), they need to know who they can trust to share things that are happening to them. NIOT/NIOS is assisting in helping students identify those individuals.

The theme for this week's CCRC conference, Poking the Bear: Uniting to Challenge Systems of Oppression, focused on aspects of the community that continue to adversely affect some of the groups within it.

Black Lives Matter Vigil Draws Crowd to ISU

Lenore Sobota

The Pantagraph

As a “Black Lives Matter” flag waved over the Illinois State University quad on Monday night, nearly 250 people gathered in song, prayer and words in a show of solidarity.

Organizers said the purpose of the vigil was to mourn, to remember and to stand together for people who have "lost their lives to social injustice."

Strong winds made it difficult to keep candles lit for the vigil, so participants lit the lights on their cellphones and held them aloft.

People took smaller versions of the “Black Lives Matter” flag, handed out at the beginning of the vigil, and placed them in the ground around the flagpole as names were read of several African Americans whose deaths have become rallying cries for the Black Lives Matter movement: Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown and Sandra Bland, among others.

Two speakers also read the names of black transgender women who have been killed, saying, “In the spirit of Black Lives Matter, … we must love each other and support each other.”

The evening included an a capella group, Outlandish, singing several songs, including, “We Shall Overcome” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” sometimes referred to as the black national anthem. Later, participants joined the Interdenominational Youth Choir in singing “Amazing Grace.”

The crowd was predominantly black, but there were also whites, Hispanics and Asians in the crowd. All joined hands as a speaker led them in prayer, asking God to “help people understand this is not just us complaining” and to “help us love each other” and “help us to stand together and make a difference on this campus.”

A small group of less than a dozen protesters opposing the vigil also was present.

Talking before the vigil began, senior Kyndle Hunter of Matteson, vice president of the Black Student Union, which organized the vigil, said having the Black Lives Matter flag flying over the quad “shows that ISU cares. It shows that ISU is trying.”

ISU President Larry Dietz attended the start of the rally, walking through the crowd, shaking hands and talking with many of those present. Levester Johnson, vice president of student affairs, also was present.

Hurdylyn Woods, ISU coordinator of diversity advocacy, said the vigil and flag are raising awareness and starting the conversation about black concerns. The flag was raised on a university flagpole earlier in the day with permission from the administration.

"Don't let the conversation end,” he told the crowd. “Use the knowledge that you have to make the world better. It starts right now.”

Pamela Hoff, an associate professor in the department of educational administration and foundations, said “Black lives have always mattered,” but “unfortunately, we have to continue to assert ourselves.”

She called on the crowd to to join in a nationwide community solidarity day on Wednesday, wearing Black Lives Matters T-shirts all day. This will be followed by a time of reflection from 6 to 7:20 p.m. Wednesday (see story below).

Laurie: No Tolerance for Zero Tolerance

By Laurie Bergner

WJBC Forum

It’s a rare event when laws are passed to soften instead of increase punishments, but I am happy to report a new law that requires schools to limit long-term suspensions and expulsions, as well as eliminating the use of zero-tolerance policies used to severely punish students for certain offenses. Chicago Democrat Senator Kimberly Lightford, who sponsored the legislation, said “So it becomes a school system that says, ‘what can we do to keep this student in an academic setting?’” The law requires schools to look to other options, such as counseling or involving them in after-school programs, before suspensions longer than 3 days. In addition, for longer suspensions, schools will be required to give students support services while they’re away and allow them to make up work they missed.

Zero tolerance policies grew out of the Gun-Free School Act of 1994 that followed the horrendous Columbine shootings. This act required states receiving federal funds to mandate that local school districts expel students who bring a weapon to school for a minimum of one year. States rushed to pass laws to meet the requirements, which soon were followed by schools all over the country. Zero tolerance rules mandate predetermined punishments for weapons, drugs and alcohol without regard for when the behavior or possession was done in ignorance, by accident, or under extenuating circumstances. It does not take into account of the seriousness of the behavior or the student’s history. These policies have been implemented too broadly and too often for minor incidents, such as giving an advil to a friend, or having a small pocket knives.

Contrary to popular belief, research has found that zero tolerance policies are not effective and often have unintended negative consequences. A disproportionate number of the students who are suspended are black or Hispanic, as well as students with disabilities. African American students are 4 times as likely to be suspended than white students for the same violation; students with ADHD are 3 ½ to 7 times more likely to be expelled. And following suspensions, students experience depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and academic failure. And school dropouts increase.

One of the school rules that I find most unfair is the one that suspends both students involved in a fight, regardless of who started it. Ask police how they deal with a bar fight: do they jail everyone? Of course not. They make every attempt to find out who started it and charge that individual, rather than the one who was defending himself or herself. So who should a school fight be any different? How is it justice to consider the defender to be as culpable as the offender? Yet that is exactly what schools have done in their zero tolerance rules.

So I welcome this new law. I am aware it is yet another unfunded mandate for schools, but nonetheless, it is an essential change from a punitive to a prevention and correction model, one that will have crucial positive effects.

Laurie Bergner is a clinical psychologist in private practice, working with individual adults, families and couples. She also works with the nonpartisan League of Women Voters, helping organize candidates forums, educational programs, and many issues in the field of law and justice. She has received many recognitions in both fields, including YWCA’s Women of Distinction in the Professions, Leaguer of the Year, LWV Special Project Awards, and the LWV of Illinois’s prestigious Carrie Chapman Catt award. Laurie has a wonderful husband and two grown children – also wonderful. She loves biking in the countryside, reading, and traveling.

Hagopian: Education System Perpetuates Racism


A high school history teacher in Seattle who led a successful revolt against standardized testing under Common Core initiatives says the education system perpetuates racism.

Jesse Hagopian says studies show standardized tests themselves fail miserably.

"The impact of attaching graduation requirements to exit exams in high school has been an increase in incarceration rates. We see high stakes testing is actually an integral part of the school-to-prison pipeline," Hagopian said during Sound Ideas.

Hagopian said the average student takes about 112 standardized tests between pre-K and high school.

"When you inundate the classroom with that many high stakes standardized tests, you reduce the intellectual and emotional process of teaching and learning to a single score," he added.

Hagopian said the public education system in the U. S. perpetuates racism, in part by starting with a curriculum that perpetuates myths regarding slavery.

Hagopian's talk titled "Black Education Matters" includes a Q&A on Saturday and is part of the ISU Fall Speaker Series.

November 17 Humanity Summit Addresses Systemic Bias

The November 17 2016 YWCA Humanity Summit will serve as a space for the community to grapple with important questions of cultural and systemic oppression (racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia), and how Twin Citians can grow to become allies in the struggle for justice.


Register before Friday, October 7, and get $10 off registration!

 Student: $8 (pricing stays the same)

 Standard: $30 (earlybird: $20)

 CEU: $60 (earlybird: $10)

 A pay-what-you-can option is available for those who are unable to pay full price for registration.

Oppression is taking lives and destroying communities. Every day, accounts of violence against people of color and a resurgence in hate crimes are in the headlines. Below the surface, institutionalized marginalization and cultural repression of “the other” are quietly killing our communities.

 Oppression costs us all. And even though we didn’t create these problems, we do have a responsibility to ourselves, as well as to each other and future generations to address them.

What to expect at the Humanity Summit:

• A community of experts: The Humanity Summit will be a truly community driven conversation. Rather than slate a roster of presenters to lecture an audience, we are calling on you to bring stories of your experiences, your ideas, and a spirit of collaboration as we move this conversation together.

• An evolving and shared understanding: We don’t have all the answers. Collectively, we will develop our understanding of oppression and privilege, determine the costs of oppression, create shared principles of allyship, and commit ourselves to taking meaningful action.

• A space for you: Throughout the summit, there will be breakout groups specific to the various communities we are a part of. Each breakout will be facilitated by a member of the corresponding community. Breakouts include women/femme (Gender), people of color (race), people with disabilities, trans/gender-queer (gender) and LGBQ (sexual orientation). In addition, there will be a breakout for folks who don’t identify with any of these groups.

Camille: You Might Be...

Camille Taylor

WJBC Forum

Broadcast August 30

Last week’s news was filled with more campaign name calling which included words like racist, bigot, prejudice, and discrimination. Since most people avoid discussing race, I wanted to clarify their definitions, so that when others are labelled, the average listener can identify if the word is being properly used or misused.

Jeff Foxworthy is a comedian known for his, “You might be a redneck…” jokes. So here goes my list:

“You might be a racist” if you use your power to establish systems, rules, practices, or laws that support your beliefs that people of other races are inferior. Consequently, when you hear the words “systemic racism” it is because racism still persists across systems such as government, insurance, education, finance, criminal justice, etc. In America, white people are the dominant group controlling positions of authority across most systems, so it is technically incorrect to call a person of color a “racist”, because of their position/lack of power to establish/maintain racist practices within systems.

“You might be a bigot” if you are completely intolerant, and devoted to your own opinions and prejudices such that you treat members of other groups with hatred and intolerance.

“You might be prejudiced” if you have a feeling for or against something or someone without any good reason. For example, if you feel that a certain group is inferior or bad because of their religion, gender, race, etc., but you really don’t know anyone from that group or much about them, then you are prejudiced.

“You might discriminate” if you have strong prejudicial or bigoted feelings about an individual or group and treat them unequally or unfairly due to their individual or group membership.

“You might be biased” if you have a preference that keeps you from making a fair judgement. For example, it could be as simple as a bias for vanilla over strawberry ice cream or as harmful as an employer preferring men over women or a realtor preferring white people to people of color.

Archie Bunker, of the 1970’s sitcom “All In the Family,” was openly prejudiced, biased, and generally considered to be a bigot. The show became a “safe place” to spark discussions on a number of race related issues, using humor to “ease” the conversations. Unfortunately, there is no humor in what is happening in the current political climate. 

I’m deeply concerned about the post-election environment that is being created in our country by the use of harmful and inflammatory rhetoric.

Kelley: Is Black Lives Matter A Form of Racism?

Rev. Kelley Becker

Bloomington First Christian Church

When was the last time you felt really uncomfortable?


I’m not talking about physically uncomfortable like after eating Thanksgiving dinner. Or after spending the night in a bed that wasn’t made for you, your spouse, a few kids…and maybe even a pet or two.

I’m talking about the kind of uncomfortable you feel when you tell your mother in law how wonderful her meatloaf is and your child says,

“But dad, you said grandma’s meatloaf tastes like cardboard.”

Or at the family reunion when your sister’s new husband complains about labor unions to your uncle who has worked as a union electrician his entire life.

…That kind of uncomfortable. It kind of sucks the air out of the space and is usually accompanied by a split second of silence that feels like forever.

Today’s sermon topic has a way of making us feel that kind of uncomfortable.

We continue our sermon series, You Asked For It, with a question submitted by one of you, “Is the Black Lives Matter movement a form of racism?”

I will be honest, it has been an uncomfortable week for me. The more I prepared for this sermon, the more uncomfortable I became. I was uncomfortable because so many of the stories I was reading were so far outside my own experience that it was hard to wrap my brain around them. I was uncomfortable because many of the stories point to unjust systems and ways of being that have benefited me my entire life. I was uncomfortable because it is clear to me that many of our brothers and sisters who have black skin are in deep pain, are very angry and frustrated with systemic racism that continues to affect their lives every single day. And I was uncomfortable because the more I read, the more convinced I became that the narrative in the media about the Black Lives Matter movement is creating a smokescreen that is keeping us from fully addressing the real root of the pain and anger from which Black Lives Matter was born. That root is racism. Our country has a problem with racism…and sometimes when we try to talk about it, we get very uncomfortable; sometimes we get angry and defensive.

I remember being a store with my grandma when I was about 8. We were standing at the checkout and an African-American man got in line behind us. As he did, my grandma moved her purse from her side to in front of her and she clutched it tightly. I asked her why she was doing that. Even at 8 years old, I remember how uncomfortable my grandma looked as she very quietly explained that it is good and responsible to be sure you keep an eye on your belongings. Racism makes us uncomfortable.

Today we are going to talk about it though. I hope the result of talking about it here is that we will begin to listen to one another, growing to understand experiences different from our own.

Let’s start with the text Sue read for us. Did this story make you feel uncomfortable? In the story, the woman, a Gentile, hearing that Jesus was traveling around healing people, appealed to him to heal her demon possessed daughter. She bowed at his feet as she begged him to help.

Now, what would you think Jesus might to say to this distraught mother?

I thought of a number of things he might say…all of them filled with compassion, care, and concern.

He said none of them.

Instead, he said, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

Jesus’ answer was in the form of a metaphor. The children in this metaphor are the children of Israel, the Jewish people. The dogs were anyone who was not Jewish, the Gentiles. Basically, what Jesus was saying was, “My ministry is to people like me, Jewish people.”

That makes me uncomfortable. That is not the kind of thing the Jesus I follow would say. The Jesus I follow was the one who told the story about the Good Samaritan. The question the story answered was, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus’ answer, “Everyone.”

The Jesus I follow forgave the Samaritan woman at the well; healed lepers, ate with tax collectors, and challenged religious leaders who cared more about law than love. The Jesus in this story slurred a woman who begged him to help her child, comparing her, not to a beloved pet who is a member of the family, but to a semi-wild scavenger, an outsider, who would eat unclean food. 

I am uncomfortable with that.

While I am uncomfortable with it, I can certainly relate to it. We live in a world where name calling is not uncommon. We live in a world where we separate ourselves from people who are different from us. We live in a world where we fear “the other” will take what is ours. This fear is what keeps racism alive. Racism is so much more than name calling. It is embedded deeply into the fabric of this nation and the Black Lives Matter movement is a response to that reality.

The fact is, in this country, life is easier if you have white skin than if you have dark skin. I am not saying that white skin guarantees a person an easy life. That is not the case. Sadly, people of all skin colors experience poverty, violence, family disruption, and negative encounters with the criminal justice system. However, in our country, people with black skin are more likely to experience these things and experience them to a greater extent. This is a fact.

And that fact means that systemic racism exists in this country. That makes us uncomfortable though…because I think we want to believe the best about our country. We want to believe that all people, regardless of the color of their skin, have the same opportunities to succeed, to contribute, to have the things they need, and to be safe. That is not what many, many black people have experienced.

At a Not in Our Town meeting a few months ago, I heard the stories of black students, in our community, who have been discouraged from taking college prep classes in high school while their white peers, with the same or lower grade point averages, have been automatically placed in those classes. That is racism. I have seen studies that show employers are more likely to hire a white person with a criminal record than a Black person without one, and much more likely to follow up on a resume with a “white-sounding” name than an identical resume with a “Black-sounding” name. That is racism.

And we have heard so many stories of black people in our country who fear encounters with our criminal justice system, including law enforcement officers. Sadly, there seems to be a reason for that fear. It is racism.

And just because I have not experienced these things or you have not experienced them, does not mean our black neighbors have not. We must listen to them when they share from their pain, anger, and frustration.

In this congregation, we have heard Jim and Sharon Warren’s stories about the differences between how their children with light skin are treated versus their children with black skin. This week, I read the story of another parent with a similar family make up. She asked me, the reader, a number of questions:

Do store personnel follow your children when they are picking out their Gatorade flavors?

Do coffee shop employees interrogate your children about the credit card they are using while you are using the restroom?

Do your kids get treated one way when they are standing alone but treated completely different when you walk up?

Do the shoe sales people ask if your kids’ feet are clean?

To all of these questions, and many others, this mother says, “My black children are treated differently than my white children.” We need to listen and believe this mother and every other parent who shares these stories.

 We need to listen to her and others as they have joined voices to say, “Black Lives Matter.”

And that may make us uncomfortable. Some of us might be tempted to respond by saying, “All Lives Matter.” Please don’t.

The Black Lives Matter movement is not “only Black Lives Matter.”

It is Black Lives Matter too.

The movement is about the experiences of black people. It is about black parents fearing for their child’s life when he walks out the front door. It is about black people not having the same opportunities white people have. It is about injustice. Let’s face it, in this country, white people have always mattered…just ask the Native Americans.

Let me say it this way (in the words of Reddit user, GeekAesthete):

Imagine that you're a teenager sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don't get any. So you say, "I should get my fair share." And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, "Everyone should get their fair share." Now, that's a wonderful sentiment — Indeed, everyone should, and that was kind of your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad's comment just dismissed you and didn't solve the problem that you still haven't gotten any!

The problem is that the statement "I should get my fair share" had an implicit "too" at the end: "I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else." But your dad's response treated your statement as though you meant "only I should get my fair share," which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that "everyone should get their fair share," while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out.

Just like asking dad for your fair share, the phrase "black lives matter" also has an implicit "too" at the end: It's saying that black lives should also matter. But responding to this by saying "all lives matter" is willfully going back to ignoring the problem. It's a way of dismissing the statement by falsely suggesting that it means "only black lives matter," when that is obviously not the case. And so saying "all lives matter" as a direct response to "black lives matter" is essentially saying that we should just go back to ignoring the problem.

First Christian Church member Camille Taylor, in her recent WJBC forum, titled Which Lives Matter? said it this way:

“The leaders of this movement already know that all lives matter, but from the beginning, they wanted attention drawn to a disturbing pattern of reports of the over use of force toward black people. They want to end systemic racism across institutions, but particularly in the criminal justice system.”

The Black Lives Matter movement is not a racist movement. It is a justice movement. It is a justice movement that calls all of us to work together to end racism in this country. We must stop being distracted by semantics which serves as a smoke screen, keeping us from engaging the real problem. We cannot word smith the problem away. The problem is racism and it affects real people, with real lives, real families, and real fear about the future.

Semantics is not the only thing keeping us from engaging racism. The media’s portrayal of the Black Lives Matter movement as inherently violent and destructive distracts us from the real work of Black Lives Matter. Violence and the destruction of property are never okay. It’s important to remember, though, that Black Lives Matter is not the first justice movement that has struggled with the actions of individuals within the movement.

In fact, this week I ran across a letter, written to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963. The letter was signed by a group of clergy. Here is an excerpt:

“…we are now confronted by a series of demonstrations by some of our Negro citizens, directed and led in part by outsiders. We recognize the natural impatience of people who feel that their hopes are slow in being realized. But we are convinced that these demonstrations are unwise and untimely…”

Just as we formerly pointed out that “hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions,” we also point out that such actions as incite to hatred and violence, however technically peaceful those actions may be, have not contributed to the resolution of our local problems. We do not believe that these days of new hope are days when extreme measures are justified in Birmingham.

The problem then was not the protests. The problem now is not the protests. The problem is racism.

Other smoke screens include, pointing out that crimes among members of the black community exist in abundance, however the existence and prevalence of “black on black” crime does not change the fact that people with black skin do not have the same opportunities or receive the same treatment as people with white skin. And yes, those black lives matter, too.

Stories about barbeques and ice cream with police officers promote positive interaction between law enforcement and black citizens, but do not solve the problem of systemic racism.

The phrase Blue Lives Matter, adopted by some people to draw attention to the contentious environment law enforcement is working within, is another smokescreen. Yes, the lives of the brave men and women who protect our communities matter. However, it is important to remember that, in our world, policemen have position and power that black citizens do not have.

I identified one more smoke screen this week. As I read parts of the platform adopted by the Black Lives Matter movement, “A Vision for Black Lives”, I was disappointed that leaders entered into the political realm of U.S. foreign policy and views regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In my opinion, they created their own smoke screen that distracts from what I understand as their primary message. The problem is still racism.

Despite the negativity that has surrounded The Black Lives Matter movement. Participants have done some important things.

Students on college campuses have rallied to draw attention to racial issues that have plagued their campuses. At the University of Missouri, a protest led to the resignation of the university’s president who failed to institute and enforce policies that discourage racism. On the campuses of Harvard, Brown, Yale and others faculty have taken a deeper look at racial history as it relates to student life. For example, on Georgetown’s campus, administrators renamed buildings that once honored slave owners.

Black Lives Matters activists protested the Confederate flag and have encouraged legislators to act on its removal from public spaces. Much needed attention has been drawn to the school to prison pipeline that exists for black people.

There are many more good and important things happening because of this movement for justice. And we are invited to be part of it.

I know this has been an uncomfortable message for some of you. I hope you will come and talk to me if something I have said has upset you. I want to listen to you as you have patiently listened to me. Know that above everything else, I want us to follow Jesus together. So let’s go back for a minute to where we left our scripture passage.

Following Jesus’ initial derogatory answer to the woman, she responded with, “…even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Jesus, my child matters too.

Jesus’ response was to heal the girl. One scholar I read this week urges us to think of this story, not as a miracle of healing story, but as a miracle of overcoming prejudice and boundaries that separate people. For the initial hearers and readers of this story, this exchange points toward a future in which Gentiles would be included in God’s kingdom. For us, I believe it points us toward a future when we will not have to explain that, of course all lives matter…of course they do. That is the foundation of everything I believe about God. We are all created in God’s image. Every one of us bears God’s likeness.

Right now though, it is the stories of our black neighbors that we need to listen to and believe. We can show them we have heard them by standing together, by lifting our voices with theirs, demanding and working toward justice for everyone because Black Lives Matter today and every day.


NAACP, BPD Maintain 'Open Channels'; NAACP Chief Urges Reporting of Suspected Racial Profiling

To fix the flaws or abuse in the system, citizens must be willing to use the system’s resources to make their voices known in official channels, according to a local leader of the African-American community. Bloomington’s police chief concurs with him on the need for “open channels” between law enforcement and citizens.

At Monday’s vigil commemorating nationwide victims of recent violence and racism, Quincy Cummings, head of the Bloomington-Normal NAACP, emphasized the need for those who feel they have experienced police mistreatment or discrimination to come forward. Citizens and local police officials joined in the event, and Cummings noted top cops must be aware a problem exists to adequately address it.

In the end, he held “we have to hold ourselves accountable for being the community we want to see.” He argued that thanks to cooperative efforts, “we have the ear of local law enforcement.”

“The problem is, a lot of times, people don’t complain,” Cummings said. “In order to hold police accountable, you have to go and fill out a formal police complaint. Even if that means calling the NAACP to go with you to do it, whether it means involving the ACLU, whatever, that has to happen.

“Police are looking at data, and if they’re looking at complaints and seeing a low volume of complaints for the year, then they don’t see a problem. It doesn’t matter what people are saying on the street. This is what we have to do.”

NAACP has worked extensively through “open channels” with local law enforcement in part through the Minority and Police Partnership of McLean County. The Bloomington Police Department is a charter member of MAPP, which was developed with NIOTBN support, and in the wake of Ferguson and Baltimore and a local NIOTBN/NAACP community/police forum in early 2015, the BPD launched annual public training sessions to demonstrate and gather citizen input on real-world police procedures and ramped up minority officer recruitment.

A sign of the progress the BPD has made in the communities was last night’s standing ovation for local police at the First Christian Church vigil. BPD Chief Brendan Heffner hailed Monday’s event and its commemoration of officers and citizens alike, arguing “any loss of life is tragic.”

“The community realizes this,” Heffner said. “We don’t always know the reasons for certain things, but any time we’re together, we’re communicating, it’s always positive.

“Having that dialogue will also help us if something occurs, cause (the community knows) we’ve done that. We didn’t just get together now – we’ve had ongoing dialogue. We may agree to disagree, but we’ve had a dialogue, and we’ve worked together for what we believe is best for the community.”

The Dallas police shootings were “a very stark reminder of what we face,” the chief acknowledged. Today’s officer must possess “the right mindset to be prepared for anything and still do our job in a professional manner,” he stressed.

Illinois’ data collection law established a multi-year statewide study of traffic stops to collect data to identify racial bias. Consistent with and in addition to state-mandated officer data collection, the BPD collected information on passenger race and gender data, specific offense, exact location of the traffic stop, vehicle registration number, parole or probation status of the driver, and expanded racial categories.  

Here are some further insights on profiling and data collection from the BPD: 

Q.  What is racial profiling?

A.  Profiling is defined as the detention, interdiction, or other disparate treatment of any individual on the basis of racial, ethnic, age, gender, or sexual orientation of that individual. 

Q. Why did the Bloomington Police Department collect more data than state law mandates?

A.  As allowed by the law, we collect additional data to enhance anticipated future statisticalanalysis.  More and richer data increases the opportunity for deeper analysis, resulting in more reliable conclusions.   

Q.  What do I do if I think I am a victim of racial profiling by Bloomington Police?

A.  Pick up a copy of the Bloomington PoliceDepartment’s Citizen Complaint Form at the police facility at 305 S. East Street in downtown Bloomington.  The forms are also available from the City Clerk’s office at Bloomington City Hall. 

Q.  What can I do to help identify and prevent racial profiling?

A.  Be patient, cooperate with law enforcement when stopped for a traffic violation, and support statistically reliable data analysis.  Report suspected racial profiling and encourage recruitment of minority police officers.  Most importantly, obey traffic laws and drive safely. 

Q.  Who do I contact if I have questions about data collection or racial profiling?

A.  The Bloomington Police Department, Office of Public Affairs, off the second floor lobby of the police facility at 305 S. East Street. Call (309) 434-2355 or inquire online at police@cityblm.org .