By Brenda Hammond
The banner at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center has generated discussion in the community — especially after it was slashed in two, repaired, and put back up. The banner originated with a group of local people to convey the message that Bonner County is a place where each individual is valued, respected and, therefore, safe. It was hung in solidarity with the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force whose creed states, “We believe in the inviolable dignity of each human being,” and “We oppose discrimination, intimidation, harassment and the denial of equal protection in any form.”
The placement of the banner was timely, following the appearance of a mailing that stated, “We need a country of our own — for White People ONLY!” For those who have lived here for a while, this message is reminiscent of the Aryan Nations, the Ku Klux Klan and others who have vowed to seize this beautiful corner of our country to make it an Aryan homeland.
It is clear from talking with many current residents, of various political perspectives, that this is not the vision of the majority in our community. However, those years spent taking a stand against this movement have left a stain on North Idaho.
Therefore, it is important that we do not let this reputation define us. What defines us is that we have stood against this ideology for more than 30 years so the groups shouting this abusive and hateful agenda have not flourished here.
Speaking to one community friend, it was pointed out that the use of the word “diversity” on the banner was provocative, like poking a stick in the eye of those who feel threatened by it. However, the BCHRTF Board, after meeting to discuss an appropriate response, feels strongly that we support the use of the word “diversity.” That, after all, is the concept that is directly being attacked by those seeking an all-white state.
We feel it is our responsibility to speak out for anyone who feels marginalized because of color, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or socio-economic status — people who don’t feel safe speaking up for themselves.
We see diversity as a fact. Our planet is made up of people of many colors, traditions, languages, cuisines, as well as many values and dreams that have common threads. Diversity is American. We are a country founded on the ideals of equality and justice for all, although we have a ways to go before we achieve them.
It has been proven as well that diversity is good for business. We want our community to thrive; to offer jobs that will encourage our young people to stay here.
We understand diversity to also mean diversity of opinion, and we seek an environment where people with different ideas can meet together to talk and listen in an atmosphere of mutual respect. We hope to be able to provide some opportunities for this to happen in the near future. Stay tuned.
This is the time of year that we are visited by people from all over — especially now that the threat of COVID-19 is apparently diminishing. We need to let everyone coming to visit our lovely town know that, “We the People of Bonner County Welcome All!”
Brenda Hammond is president of the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force.
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