Dear Editor:

Over the last several months we have witnessed an unprecedented level of Change in this country. The unfortunate murder of George Floyd is nothing new in today's America. What makes his murder a turning point is the fact that the entire incident was videotaped and broadcasted across the globe - which allowed the normal, regular average person to truly witness the daily horrors that black people endure to survive in this great "free" country called America. Subsequently, a number of transcending protests erupted across the country - three of them right here in Scotch Plains.

We, African-Americans, have always said we needed more White folks to step up and help in this fight for racial justice. And guess what, for the last several months, they did! They were galvanized to step up big-time since June. If I recall correctly, almost 65% of the Scotch Plains residents who marched in the protests on those three, hot/sunny, days were not African-Americans. They were White folks from all walks of life.

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With genuine empathy, they supported your cause and they marched with you because they now understand your plight. Their children and grand-children marched with you. In many instances, I saw an entire household of families come out to march on those days. They left their humble homes, made up signs and walked miles and miles with you under the blazing hot sun – with many of them even offering “free” refreshments along the way. THAT is progress and “Change” in the making.

Alas, the focal point of the protest has now been hijacked by hard-core, left-wing, radicals whose goal is to create disruptions at every possible angle. Your “new” focus on demanding the removal of statues has taken a counter-productive U-turn to the deep end of unchartered despicable territories.

Your demand to remove this (Columbus) statue has created a deeply divided town with much less support for your cause than when you started. You have turned your divisive, backward-thinking, strategy into negative equity for the racial justice movement. You have turned these very Allies against your cause. Your extreme views and useless demands are making these folks look foolish for supporting your cause. You are working extremely hard to completely squander any goodwill that you have worked so hard to gain over the last few months – turning your hard-fought, hard-won, equity gains into negative goodwill.

How disappointing is that?

This is utterly stupid, misguided, divisive and just plain silly! Your priorities are completely misplaced and misdirected.

How does removing the statue help your cause? What do you gain by tearing down statues? Absolutely NOTHING! Removing the statue will not create economic opportunities for you or improve the financial situation of your family. It will not get you jobs. It will not help your child succeed in school. It will not help you with the Police. It is completely distracting you from your goals and the real issues of remediating the negative effects of social injustices.

I strongly suggest you focus squarely on the future instead of dwelling too much on meaningless history and statues. Use your positive energy to work with leaders in the Scotch Plains government to create better opportunities to help you move forward into the future. Concentrate on advocating for more minority representation in the Scotch Plains school system - more teachers, counselors, coaches, etc. Demand Police Chief Ted Conley to institute concrete Police reforms, better Officer training and deeper police integration with community. Demand the creation of Diversity and Inclusion Offices in both the Police Department and the School District, better diversity training for Police officers, teachers and administrators.

Think about positively contributing to the community overall and being good citizens. Stop wasting your time and squandering the hard-won goodwill equity you've just gained from your good neighbors. If you think the way to better your future is by tearing down statues and indiscriminately hating White people, good luck with that. Black Power should not equal blind White hate. You need to concentrate on the future, collaborate with your neighbors who stepped up to support your cause and just focus on moving forward. I repeat, focus on moving forward, not backwards. Leave the statue alone and focus on building a better future for you and your family. If you don't like the statue, close your eyes when you walk or drive by it....just don't crash your car in the process.

I hope some of my thoughts make sense to you. It is okay if you disagree with me. I simply ask you to ponder my thoughts and find a way to channel positive energy and efforts toward creating a better future for your family. If you don't like my line of reasoning, please take a moment and think again. And if you still don’t like it, that’s okay, too. You can print this out, put it in your pipe and smoke it!

Alfonse G Akins
Scotch Plains, NJ