Letters to the Editor: Now – A call for the community to use allyship to address race-based hate

June 2021 Posted in Uncategorized

By Kyle Palmer
Mayor of Silverton

Earlier this week, one of our citizens took her young child to the reservoir for a little bit of fun in the great weather. Not long after arriving, several teenagers taunted them using the N-word and only stopped when they finally realized they weren’t going to get a reaction. No one there was able to stand up and be their ally (I recognize that not all scenarios provide enough safety for someone to do so, but allyship is one of the best and strongest tools to fight this behavior). An adult was overheard nearby saying that the kids were just being “silly.”

I’ve been the mayor of this town for nearly five years, and in all of the many statements I’ve posted, I almost never deviate from providing facts, answers, clarifications, and in general, announcements that all members of the community should have access to. On those occasions, my own opinion about matters coming before the city is immaterial until I enter the council chambers for a meeting. Until that moment, it’s my job to provide unbiased information.

The subject of fair and decent treatment of all people, however, has been the exception, and will continue to be the exception. I don’t have words to express what I felt when I heard this story  – embarrassed, ashamed, disgusted – all true, and all not nearly enough.

I’m not interested in starting a debate about a thousand things that a thousand people feel they need to invoke in order to compartmentalize this in a way that makes them sleep easier at night. This was unacceptable hate, and it is hate that can’t be diluted by generational upbringing, by citing the influences of others, or by suggesting that it was just being “silly.”

Sadly, this is not the first time a child under the age of five has been called that name in our town. On at least one other occasion, a different child was called the same thing while in a grocery store in our city.

These children and their families are humans – like every one of us – who’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. They live here in our community like everyone else. They’ve served our community just like everyone else. They go to work like everyone else. They desire to go to our beautiful reservoir just like everyone else. They need to go to the grocery store just like everyone else.

They’ve been called these names only, ONLY, because of the color of their skin. Children. Pause for just a moment and consider what you would do – as a parent – if your child were treated in this way. Or how you would react if you were treated this way yourself.

I have long been in love with this community, but the more I hear about our treatment of people who don’t look like we do, or speak like we do, or believe what we do, or live in a house like we do, the more disappointed I am that we aren’t better than this.

This is happening every day to people in our community. It’s not a “one-off” or just some kids being silly. It’s an extremely serious problem that exists in our schools, in our churches, and everywhere else. That’s not to say that we’re all guilty, but we began to be guilty as we hear things and pretend we didn’t, suspect things and push them out of our minds, and know that a friend may feel this way and simply never bring it up.

Allyship is the one thing everyone can be capable of. It is the one thing we all MUST demonstrate when that moment comes along where we see this hate before our eyes.

When it comes to people I will surround myself with, I don’t care if you’re tall or short, skinny or not, a college graduate or a self-taught survivor. I don’t care if you live in a mansion, or in a tent just out of sight. I don’t care what you do for a living, if you like the Yankees or hate them, or if you’re a Beaver or a Duck. I don’t care what church you go to, or if you don’t believe in going to one at all. I don’t care what gender you are, and I don’t care who you love. I sure as heck don’t care what color you are.

I DO, however, care if you have hate in your heart and if you can treat another human like this. There never, ever, has been an acceptable reason to treat others with hate. And there never will be. If you disagree with me on that, I don’t have room in my life for you. Period. And I hope our community decides that it doesn’t have room here for you either.

As long as I’m the mayor of this city, you can count on me to hear every possible opinion on every possible city-related issue and respond with an emotionless, fact-based, responsive and thorough answer. In fact, I thrive on those conversations because they expand my own awareness.

But on this issue, there’s no negotiation. When someone calls a child (or an adult for that matter) a name with no other meaning than race-based hate, I will not simply shrug my shoulders and focus on the great things about Silverton.

We can be better. We must be better. Not someday. Now.

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