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Letters to the Editor: What white people are finally starting to understand about antiracism

Fuller protest
Hundreds of demonstrators participate in a protest at the Palmdale Sheriff’s Department station on June 13.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s moving op-ed article about social reform hit on a reason for apathy from white moderates when tensions subside after achieving momentum from protests. He cites the brilliant observation by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that the white moderate “prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

Abdul-Jabbar suggests “reform in our systems of justice, policing, healthcare, education and economic security, all of which give preference to white people.”

A more effective message to white people is this: The “presence of justice” for Blacks does not mean less justice or increased economic insecurity for whites but rather more security for everyone. If you are the guy at the top, you don’t want to trade places with the guy at the bottom, but our social system does not have to be a vertical structure. A social contract with room for all on a wide plateau can serve everyone equally.

I will not be knocked off my perch as a white woman if I share it with more Black people.

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Kathy Harty, Sierra Madre

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To the editor: I applaud Abdul-Jabbar’s proposal for a centralized website devoted to social justice reforms. Let’s keep brainstorming.

Assembly Bill 3121, introduced by state Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) and moving through the California Legislature, would create a task force to study the legacy of slavery and recommend who would be eligible for reparations and what form compensation would take.

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In the meantime, what if a celebrity with the bona fides of Abdul-Jabbar created a fund to collect donations from individuals and businesses that can be used for college tuition, student loan forgiveness, housing down payments, business grants and other help for Black people in Los Angeles?

Kathy Saenz, Los Angeles

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To the editor: In calling for sustaining momentum in social reform, Abdul-Jabbar poses a very necessary next step now that greater numbers of Americans have awakened to the oppressive inequality long suffered by African Americans, with greater numbers than ever demanding change.

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His suggestion of a website for monitoring proposals and progress is a refreshing reminder that facts, data and proof matter in measuring what’s important — and what could be more important than equal rights in our democracy?

Moving to a position of evidence-driven action when we’ve lived so long in an era that valorizes opinion won’t be easy. But to underscore the importance of data, such a dashboard, accessible to all, could be the daily public face of efforts coordinated under a new cabinet-level position tasked with such progress.

Roberta Lessor, Newport Beach

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To the editor: Abdul-Jabbar asks why the antiracism that is taking hold now did not do so after events in the past. I believe that we have a historic confluence of events.

Much of the credit has to go to President Trump, who put racism front and center, exposing the evil in sharp contrast to the ideals that most Americans long attributed to themselves. There seems to be the will to rid ourselves of the shame and burden of the lawless and mean-spirited Trump administration.

The other aspect is the Black leadership that rose to meet the challenge. After the killing of George Floyd in May, Black Lives Matter was able to organize large and peaceful demonstrations with a strong message of inclusion and justice.

This is a moment in history. The things that can be achieved now, as happened during the civil rights era of the 1960s, are monumental.

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Michael Telerant, Los Angeles


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