With sadness that quickly turned to shame and anger, I read the front-page Oct. 11 article about the backlash in Gettysburg, S.D., to efforts by local business owner Selwyn Jones (an uncle of George Floyd) to remove the Confederate flag from patches adorning the uniforms of Gettysburg police. The justification for the design, which has been used for only 11 years, is that it reflects the town's "history." However, county historical records reflected only a single Confederate settler along with 180 Union settlers for the entire county. This, then, appears to be more of a tribute to a myth, than to actual history.
First, Mr. Jones, I extend my most sincere sympathy for your loss of your nephew, and kudos to you for taking action to eradicate symbols of hate in our midst. Your courage is a tribute to George Floyd's memory. Second, am I the only person who is appalled every time I see Confederate imagery brandished in this part of the country? Can you imagine the reaction of Union soldiers who died trying to hold our country together if they could witness this spectacle? There is no defensible rationale for celebrating symbols of division, such as the Confederate flag, in this part of the country. The only history that they represent today is one of white supremacy and racial hatred. We would all do well to read and learn more about our nation's history, so that we can avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
Martha Faust, St. Paul
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Chao Xiong's reporting on Gettysburg, S.D., and the racist attacks on Selwyn and Joie Jones was shocking. I was raised in South Dakota, living there from 1949 to 1966, and off and on after that. South Dakota was not an angry place then, but now many of its residents have lost their formerly calm, common-sense tolerance of hardworking, law-abiding people. When those men from Pierre and Gettysburg or around the country say their acts are not racist, one wonders what else can you call it but blatant racism, attacking and threatening a Black family for merely wanting a symbol of slavery removed from an official government badge.
Cheryl Geyerman, San Diego
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Ironically, the town was founded by Union soldiers. So there is an obvious solution: Adopt instead the 34-star Union flag that was flown during the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. Win-win: White residents get to cherish their heritage without a perception of being bigots, while Black residents of the town can live their lives without a reminder of slavery and suppression. Or is this really about the right to hate?
Bob Waligora, St. Louis Park
PRISON AND COVID-19
Compassion, yet, but remember that they're there for a reason
Some thoughts on Jennifer Brooks' Oct. 11 column "Pandemic limitations shrink life in prison." Prisons were, of course, never built for social distancing, and if their inmates had never victimized, and, in some cases, killed someone, they would not be at a greater risk of acquiring COVID-19. The lives some of them ended are not at a greater risk for anything, and they will never experience anything again.
Prisons in Minnesota are on lockdown, locking prisoners away from their loved ones? The relatives of the lives they ended are locked away from them, and forever.
All this is not to say that we should not have compassion for prisoners and their loved ones, even for those prisoners who have committed the most terrible of crimes, but that compassion needs to be measured against the compassion that should be shown for their victims and their loved ones as well.
Stephen Franzen, Crystal
Ross Douthat is right: There's a racial aspect to consider
As a liberal Democrat, I don't often agree with the columns of Ross Douthat of the New York Times, but the one reprinted in the Star Tribune last Sunday ("School lockdowns abandon kids of color") regarding K-12 education in large cities was right on. We white liberals smugly believe we're committed to doing whatever we can to help reverse the consequences of endemic racism. Yet, when it's blindingly obvious that virtual learning disadvantages children of color much more than white students, we chose to support the exaggerated fears of mostly white teachers. We've collectively decided to ignore, and likely even worsen, the already wide education gap.
Valerie Nebel, St. Paul
Museum is another aspect to the contributions of James Ford Bell
As always, I enjoyed reading Curt Brown's "Minnesota History" feature ("Kids' 1915 letters a link to quiet hero," Oct. 11) and his profile of James Ford Bell. One point was omitted that I feel deserves mentioning. Thanks to Mr. Bell's close relationship with Dr. Thomas Sadler Roberts, an extraordinary amateur ornithologist, Bell made the most important contribution to what brought nature to generations of Minnesota's schoolchildren: The James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History on the campus of the University of Minnesota.
His contributions were not only financial: Several of the Bell Museum's world-renowned dioramas contain preserved specimens collected by Bell himself. The original museum building became outdated, but his name, dioramas and legacy live on in the beautiful new facility on the U's St. Paul campus. Thanks, Mr. Bell!
Doris Rubenstein, Richfield
Way too gentle. It's one reason Minnesota has wimpy teams.
With seemingly no one left to blame for our local sports futility, Patrick Reusse looked on the bright side and reflected on how exciting our losses have been — "We watch sports to enjoy the Amazing Unknown (don't we?)," Star Tribune.com, Oct. 13. But I have an idea for a new scapegoat. How about our local sports media?
Living in New York for seven years, I saw the local media there relentlessly ride poor performers out of town. You either lived with that pressure and survived or you did not. I thought recent RandBall post calling out the Minnesota Twins' Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler was potentially laying the groundwork for a tougher attitude by the media ("To break their playoff streak, Twins must reinvent their offense," by Michael Rand, Oct. 6). But Reusse a week later left no doubt that we are indeed Minnesota Nice. And maybe that's the way it's supposed to be.
Spencer J. Kubo, Minneapolis