Go west, African-Americans
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Dear African-Americans,

First allow me to try and accurately represent myself. I am a 57-year-old white woman. I have lived most of my life in Wyoming. I have raised two children on my own while I worked at an open pit coal mine. The population of African-Americans in Wyoming is less than 1 percent. Wyoming is predominately white. I have had only six black friends in my entire life. As you can see, I am not qualified to speak on the subject of your circumstance, but I won't let that stop me. Please, hear me out.

As African-Americans, you represent about 13 percent of the U.S. population yet you have been in the news a lot lately. Football players making statements about inequalities. Black Lives Matter has gotten it's fair share of the press. We have heard of oppression and biases and discrimination against black people. And now the protests and violence in Charlotte. I must admit I have done only minimal research and my writings are far more opinion than fact but let me explain from a white Wyoming coal miner perspective. I think changes need to be made by all involved. Whites must stop our bigotry and biases. But let me explain to you from where that comes. It is fear and lack of understanding. We have no actual interactions with black communities. We retrieve our knowledge of your lives mostly through the news and media. And let me say, most of that is not good. We see images of you rioting, tearing apart your own communities. We hear of black on black violence and murders. We are inundated with negative images of behaviors we can't possibly understand.

But I want to also see this from your side. Again, just my limited perspective. The inner city black youth may be 2nd or 3rd or 4th generations living under the poverty line. Your culture is what was built before you. Built out of oppression and inequality and the bias in our justice system. It's no secret that your minor age young men are usually prosecuted to the full extent of our laws while your white counterparts may be given probation or diversion for the same non violent crime. There continues to be huge gaps in how black versus white are treated in our judicial system. That is wrong and unfair but how do we change that? Ask that all the African-Americans never ever make a mistake? Never ever find yourself in front of a judge? That is impossible so let's dig deeper on how to change the culture of Black communities that seem to only grow angrier and more desperate without seeing any hope of breaking away from what chains you to this unending cycle. My experience in my life tells me that we often feel trapped long after the chains have been broken. We are actually freer than we know. Over 30 years ago I started work at a coal mine where I operated heavy equipment in a very overwhelmingly male workforce. Women made up less than 10 percent of the production workforce. I am not comparing the discrimination and harassment I experienced to yours but I do have some limited understanding. I was not judged by my ability but was seen as a threat, taking a job away from a man who somehow deserved it more than I did. I walked a precarious line, learning how to fit into a male dominated environment, while still doing my job as well as the men who resented me. It was difficult and it was frustrating and frightening but eventually attitudes changed and though men still far outnumber women, we are productive, respected members of a beautifully diverse workforce. It was not easy and it may seem simple minded but to me it is this simple; break your own chains, make your own way. There needs to be changes in our judicial system and soon. There needs to be programs for your youth to find different pathways to their own freedoms. Not more protests. Not more rioting and violence. Can the Black Lives Matter group, who has found growing numbers and supporters, work with city, state, and federal governments to start enacting change that works for you and begin conversation that make positive change? Yes! Redirect efforts away from the noise and rhetoric and find solutions. Set up programs recruiting young blacks away from the culture that has not served you well and start work programs even if this means leaving the cities that have become prisons in themselves. I would be willing to take the next three black youth sentenced to jail time for nonviolent crimes into my home here in Wyoming. They and I will find them paying jobs. We will work together and learn together and know each other. We could converge our cultures and create a new one. I have just one rule...you will wear pants that fit! In my house we cover up our underpants. I am a 57 year old white woman, after all. And beyond that we will proceed.

Now to my next issue. How will we vote in the upcoming presidential election? African-Americans had voted republican until the depression era when your alliance switched to democrats in spite of the fact that democrats had for so long denied you basic civil rights. In 1936 blacks voted overwhelmingly for the democratic nominee and that continued for decades to come. But has this served to uplift the least of you. Was it a political process that advanced your liberties or was it the best of us that changed things? It was your strongest voices that lead you and opened the eyes of a nation not the Democratic Party. You must all be those voices now. Speak for change,  for jobs, for continued growth and equality. Think clearly what each presidential nominee offers you and your communities. We must have jobs. There is nothing that breeds desperation more than hopelessness. Jobs mean opportunity and opportunity means hope. Be wise in your decision because your voices deserve to be heard. We have two choices. In my mind, Clinton is more of the same that has decimated our working middle class moving more and more of us towards the poverty levels that breeds desperate behaviors and lessens the numbers of that tax paying middle class that we all know is the base of our economy. It is time we reconsider and take a hard look at what we want for our country. We may not have good choices in the presidential election this year but I believe we have only one. Nothing will happen quickly, for we have tall mountains to climb. We will push this boulder back up the hill but we have to do it together and stop separating ourselves from each other.

If we are tasked to be peacemakers by some will of our God, then we are failing! Race relations can turn around but will not be changed by one race or another. It has to be a cooperative effort. All this being said, I hope to have not offended too deeply those I want to speak to. My offer stands. Come to Wyoming, my door is open. I'm not a great cook and I don't keep a clean house but I always keep an open mind. And remember, we will all be judged not only by our actions but by the problems we solve. 

Moeller is a Wyoming coal miner and mother. 


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