Let’s keep talking, even if it’s tough

This week we asked for input from our readers on a topic that’s not the most comfortable to talk about – racism. More specifically, racism in Marshalltown.

The reason I say it’s not comfortable to talk about is because it isn’t. There’s a mix of reactions when you point out some members of this community are discriminated against, or even hated, because of the color of their skin. There’s finger-pointing, denial and anger. It’s ugly.

Perhaps the worst thing is that Marshalltown again gets painted with a broad stroke – as a racist, unwelcoming place. Similarly, I’ve heard how violent and dangerous this city is any time we report on a significant crime. The fact is our community is not that unlike other communities. These things are certainly not what defines Marshalltown.

Regardless, I thought it was an important topic to bring up and one which I encouraged one of my newer reporters to blog about.

A recent evening after work she told me and another colleague that she wanted to tell us about something that happened to her. What she said was appalling to me. Someone had pulled alongside her car at a stoplight and screamed at her to go back to (expletive) Mexico.

While my immediate reaction was surprise, in my heart I knew it wasn’t uncommon. I thought back to a young Latina sharing with me a similar story about how her family received the same message – while walking to church.

Yes it was shocking and horrible to think my reporter had this, and another similar comment, directed toward her within just six months of living here. I don’t want that for anyone. But of course I’m aware that a significant portion of this community has this cross to bear on a daily basis. It shouldn’t be that way.

So when I posted my reporter’s blog on the Times-Republican Facebook page I asked a couple of questions. How often are racial attacks occurring in our community? And what are we going to do about it?

I’ve personally spent a lot of time working on efforts to address bullying and to cultivate a safe and inclusive community – for all.

Does Not In Our Town singlehandedly eradicate racism? No. What can? Probably nothing. But NIOT and many other community efforts are worth pursuing.

We didn’t bring up this racial attack for sympathy or to bash these people who sadly don’t know a different way. We brought it up so we could talk about it, even though it’s ugly.

Perhaps you’ve had some time to think about what some people in our community go through. Maybe you’ve thought about how you can be of service to Marshalltown or how you might show someone a gesture of kindness. Ultimately, I know that if I encounter a hateful action I will do what I can to remedy the situation. As I have pledged previously through the Not In Our Town campaign, I will express that hateful actions are intolerable in our community. If I see something I will say something. Will you?