It has been a tough week for public discourse in our country. Tweets deemed racist by many from the commander-In-chief telling four Democratic congresswomen of color to “go back” to the “places from which they came” have ignited debate largely along party lines. Many contend that this language is outrageous, inflammatory and overtly racist, while others summarily dismiss it as no big deal. Either way, this debate has occupied the collective conversation, further deepening the divide and dissension in our country.
Unfortunately, this sort of coarse, racially charged language wasn’t contained to the national stage this week. During Monday night’s Independence City Council meeting, during a discussion about proposed medical marijuana facility regulations, Council Member Curt Dougherty floored some attendees in the gallery with a reference to “Middle Easterns who will sell anything out the back door.”
Even more disconcerting is that not one person on the dais challenged his demeaning characterization of business people in our community. We might give them a little benefit of the doubt – perhaps they were caught off guard by the statement. Perhaps they were unsure how to appropriately respond to the council member’s remarks during the course of the meeting.
City leaders, let us help you out with this.
It’s your duty – and honestly, the duty of all of us – to call out racially divisive language when we hear it.
Unfortunately, we are concerned that people have become inured to just this sort of language and don’t recognize dangerous rhetoric for what it is. If that comment didn’t strike a nerve in that moment, we hope that you will stop and think about that.
We must do better if we aspire to be a community that is inclusive, welcoming and diverse. Clearly there is work to be done based on what we witnessed Monday night.
“Independence for all” should mean something, and not just be a nice placeholder on the cover page of the city’s strategic plan. Don’t those words ring hollow for some of the citizens in our community?