Civility and Hatred
Show all

Civility and Hatred

What happens to a community when hatred rears its ugly head? Can a community engage in civil discourse about an instance of flagrant racial hatred? Does the discussion itself pose a risk of being divisive, of raising issues that are uncomfortable because of what they might reveal about the community, or of elements within the community? Could simply talking about hatred serve to benefit those who hold or espouse such beliefs? Wouldn’t it be better to try to ignore such acts rather than call attention to them?

Over the past eight months CommunityPlus has published guest opinion columns and hosted a series of conversations that focused on what unites us as a community—the shared love we have for this wonderful place, the ways we treat each other with respect and friendliness regardless of our backgrounds, our origins, our differences. Out of those conversations came a clear, deeply held, and widely shared “sense of community” that had, at its core, a shared desire to make this place even more lovable and livable, and a belief that, if we worked together we could and would accomplish that goal and make Sequim a place where all could thrive.

Recently, however, raw unadulterated hatred appeared—as racist, neo-Nazi slogans and images scrawled on notepaper and, as we understand it, displayed publicly at Sequim High School. This happened in our school, in our community. The question now, for us as a community, is: What are we going to do about it?

This is a clarion call for our community and a test of our character as a community.

One answer, of course, is to do nothing. Ignore it. It isn’t a reflection of who we are as a community after all.

Another approach could be to downplay it. After all, it’s just one, isolated incident, isn’t it —a teenage prank that shouldn’t be blown out of proportion? The school administration will take care of it and, if those responsible are identified, they’ll be disciplined. So there’s really no need to get all worked up about it. Just let it go.

A third way of dealing with the issue would be to acknowledge it but insist that we move on and not engage in any discussion about it because the people who do such things are a very small minority just seeking attention. Since it isn’t a reflection of who we are as a community, let’s not elevate it to an unwarranted level of importance. In fact, doing so might unintentionally provide exactly the kind of forum that minority seeks—it would give them more opportunity to spout their hateful ideas. If we just kind of sweep it under the carpet, it’ll be fine.

Let’s be clear: none of these will benefit us as a community. All of them, in fact, carry significant risks to our community and our sense of community. All of them would, indeed, work to the advantage of those who hold and espouse hateful beliefs.

This incident, whether isolated or not, is a clarion call for our community and a test of our character as a community.

A civil discussion, even if a difficult, passionate one, about this incident and the broader set of issues and concerns it reveals, is imperative.

The next “Conversation on Our Community” will address this subject and we invite everyone to join us on Thursday, January 19, 2017, at Baja Cantina (in the back banquet room at 531 West Washington Street) from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm.

 In the meantime, we urge everyone, regardless of whether you have kids attending Sequim schools, to seek additional information on the incident and what the school district is doing about it. And we urge everyone to attend the next School Board meeting on January 17th at 6:00 p.m. in the District Administration Building to express your concern about the incident and hear what the School Board has done or proposes to do to address it.

2 Comments

  1. Ken Stringer Ken Stringer says:

    Thank you, Susan. We’re hoping we have a really big turn out for this conversation and given the reaction here and on our Facebook page, we will. We take that reaction as an indication that a core value of this community IS inclusiveness, a clear understanding of how hatred–whatever its basis–can tear a community apart, and a deep commitment to dealing with instances of hatred, bigotry, and prejudice as and when they arise. Those are the qualities of a healthy, unified, community.

  2. Ken Stringer Ken Stringer says:

    Patricia,

    We’ll soon be publishing a more detailed summary of our latest Conversation. Overall, however, it was an evening of sober, yet passionate discussion about a very difficult and complex issue. We think almost everyone came away with an appreciation of how much work needs to be done on may levels to really address the issue effectively, whether in the schools or the community at large. Although it was, at times, a very emotional conversation, it remained civil. Which is not to say that everyone agreed with everyone–that’s not the definition of civility. The principal outcome was a desire and willingness on the part of many in attendance to continue the conversation and to work together towards finding ways of addressing hatred, bigotry, and prejudice in the community, drawing on the strengths we have as a community. More to come within a day or so on the details of the evening and on where we go from here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *