By Brenda Hammond
The Bonner County Human Rights Task Force sends its deepest sympathy to the victims of hate mail received recently by neighbors in our community. We are appalled by the hateful language in the letter and the people who feel empowered to issue such threats. The local Democrats have sent out a strong statement against the letter — and we are certain that many others in the community, regardless of political persuasion, also condemn the thinking behind it.
The idea of turning this corner of the Northwest into an all-white state is abhorrent and unfathomable to most of us — even though this idea has been promoted by white supremacists at least since the ’70s. It’s referred to as the “Northwest Imperative,” and has been the vision of the Aryan Nations, the National Socialist White People’s Party, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the Northwest Concern and the American Front — to name just a few.
The hate mail sent recently was from the “Northwest Front” and stated, “White people need a country of our own for white people ONLY!” It also contains statements that purport patriotism, including quotes from President Thomas Jefferson and early U.S. political leader Alexander Hamilton. However, most of us hold dear a vision of a United States of America based on the Declaration of Independence, which states, “All men are created equal,” and recite the Pledge of Allegiance to a country based on “liberty and justice for all.”
We must acknowledge that those who don’t understand this to apply to everyone are certainly not without precedent. Looking straight into the face of our history, we must acknowledge the genocide of Indigenous peoples, the institution of slavery, the prohibition against women and black Americans voting, segregation, Jim Crow laws, the continuing lack of equal pay for equal work, etc. Yes, this too is America. And the ideas of white supremacy are still alive and well.
For those of us who believe that “the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice,” there is still much work to be done — to eliminate prejudice, discrimination and oppression. For those of us, specifically, who live in the Northwest, we have a special mission. It is up to us to counter the idea of an “all-white Idaho” with our actions as well as our words. Let us uphold and honor the rights of the native people who loved and inhabited this beautiful region long before a white man set foot here. Let us examine our businesses, our schools and our institutions for remnants of bias and discrimination. Most of all, let us examine our own thinking and acknowledge the stereotypes and labels that live in our minds and cause us to be critical of those we perceive as “different.”
The BCHRTF will be holding an Anti-Racism Workshop in the next few months. If you would like to join the workshop please become a member of BCHRTF (membership is $1) by visiting our website: bchrtf.org/join. We will be sending out information to our members about the workshop as it develops.
Let us celebrate our differences, our diversity, and open our eyes to the beauty and richness it adds to the tapestry of our lives. North Idaho is known for its “live and let live” philosophy—let it be known that it is welcoming to all.
Brenda Hammond is president of the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force.
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