It’s been said that we’re living through not one but two pandemics. There’s COVID-19, which has turned most of our lives upside down since at least March, and there’s systemic racism, which has plagued our nation since before its founding. But only recently, since the broadly broadcast killing of a black man by a white police officer in Minnesota in May, has the second of these scourges been getting the closest analysis racism has received since the Civil Rights movement.
A guiding principle of this magazine since its founding in 2006 has been to avoid publishing content about politics or sports. But public health and antiracism are not partisan politics — they are the responsibility of each of us as civilized human beings.
In our nook of the Driftless Area, we may not know many people suffering and dying from coronavirus, but that is no reason nor excuse not to follow the guidance of our county health departments when they advise us to wear masks, maintain social distance, and practice hand hygiene to protect ourselves and each other from the disease. And we may not be as racially diverse as communities in larger metropolitan areas, but that is no reason nor excuse not to be aware of the effects of systemic racism in our region, our state, and our country at large.
What can we do to be informed, besides getting sucked into the echo chambers that social media and cable news networks can be? We can read. We can write. We can make art and music. We can walk, run, bike or swim in this beautiful part of our state and think about how we can talk to each other, and perhaps more importantly, listen to each other, even at a social distance or virtually, even when we may not agree. We can build bridges.
From Shake Rag Alley’s five-part Virtual Community Conversation series that took place in June-August as a prelude to the rescheduled NEA Big Read of Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen: An American Lyric” this fall, to the Spring Green Community Group that’s begun meeting regularly to discuss current events and share book recommendations, to the Mining & Rollo Jamison Museums’ upcoming lecture series on slavery in Platteville, communities are coming together to address the history of racism, confront the ways it still looms large in the lives of so many of us, and strategize the opportunities we as a country have to be better and do better going forward.
We’re grateful to the businesses and organizations whose advertising helps us bring you these pages and ideas, and we invite your contribution to our continued efforts to celebrate life in the Lower Wisconsin and Sugar-Pecatonica River Basins. Please enjoy the voices of this month’s contributors: Mary Friedel-Hunt, Doris Green, John Heasley, Jennifer Moore-Kerr, Patrice Peltier, Odessa Piper, Kathy Steffen and Etienne White, and photography by Dustin Roberts.