Black Lives Matter signs are sprouting up in Detroit Lakes
Retired librarian Ruth Solie of Detroit Lakes has had a Black Lives Matter sign in her yard for about a week now, and the biggest response she has noticed is neighbors coming by who want a sign, too.
“I was carrying some signs up the street and someone stopped me -- they wanted one. Neighbors wanted them, too … it’s really an organic, grassroots sort of thing,” Solie said.
As of Monday about 70 Black Lives Matter signs had gone up in the Detroit Lakes area, she said. The local organizers who provided residents with the signs declined to talk with the Tribune for this story. But Solie said she would be happy to talk about why she has a sign in her yard.
The Black Lives Matter slogan and signs have gained traction recently after the death of George Floyd May 25 while he was in Minneapolis police custody.
Solie was surprised when one woman told her she would like to put a sign up, but was afraid about the possible backlash.
“That was a wake up call for me,” Solie said. “There are things that I am fearful about, but putting a sign in my yard in Detroit Lakes is not one of them.
“There’s been no direct negative feedback,” she said. “You can see that my neighborhood isn’t racist,” she added with laugh, gesturing to similar yard signs next door, across the street and down the block.
Putting up the sign is her way of calling for change in the way that Americans have historically treated each other.
Her own extended family includes lots of people of color, she said, from in-laws to grandchildren to nieces and nephews. Multiracial family members are the norm for lots of people now, she said.
“Most all of our families do (have mixed-race members),” she said. So it hits those families like a slap in the face when they see people they love being treated differently, unfairly, for only one apparent reason: their race.
It’s not just a law enforcement issue, she said. It’s a problem with some people not being treated as well as others in clinics, schools, businesses, anywhere, really, because of the way they look, she said.
“Everybody supports law enforcement,” she added. “That’s not the issue. Police brutality and institutional racism are separate issues. Black lives are negatively affected by a lot of things -- the health care system, housing, business -- police brutality is just one of them.”
A bigger issue in this area is how Native Americans are treated in Detroit Lakes, she said. “The time has come that we need to really look at ourselves, especially white people in small towns.”
The Black Lives Matter signs have been useful for starting conversations, she added. “I witnessed a beautiful scene out there,” in her front yard, where a Black Lives Matter sign is posted next to a Little Free Library. A little boy started out looking at the books, then became intrigued with the sign and had to spell it out loud. The grownup with the boy got down with him and explained what the sign was all about.
Solie has heard of some local signs being uprooted and replaced with little American flags, but she has not had any problems with her sign being vandalized or stolen. As patriotic as anyone, she plans to plant some little American flags next to her sign, she said.
“There are bigger, long-range plans to address racism in the community, but this is just a way of starting,” she said. Becker County Energize, for example, is gearing up to deal with racism in the community, starting later this month, she said.
In the end, Solie said, “my hope is that the signs are useful in getting neighbors to have conversations and in making people feel comfortable in this community.”