As a lifelong Missouri resident, I'm sad that our state has gotten a racist reputation.
It started about three years ago when white policeman Darren Wilson shot black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, triggering days of rioting and national attention. The riots involved several issues, but to a large extent pitted blacks against whites, especially white policemen. Ferguson, and indeed the St. Louis area, became synonymous with racial unrest.
It got worse several months later when riots broke out at the University of Missouri campus in Columbia. Again, the overall story seemed to center around blacks versus whites. The national coverage hurt the university's reputation, causing enrollment to drop and revenue to shrink.
The racist label was amplified this year when state lawmakers passed legislation making it more difficult to win racial discrimination lawsuits in Missouri. The new law, along with ongoing fears of racial profiling in Missouri, prompted the NAACP to issue a travel warning. Now, many black people avoid our state.
Holy cow! Where will it end? I know most of us aren't racists and are sad that Missouri has been labeled as a racist state. What must the rest of the country think of us?
Overcoming this label will take a long time and a lot of effort. We can't just sit back and point fingers at the lawmakers or the police, because they are a reflection of us all. We must all work to eliminate racism. It begins in the mind.
GARY L. GAINES, Cape Girardeau