Racism is here in Marshall
To the editor:
This past weekend, the statewide mask mandate went into effect in order to protect our state’s public health against the coronavirus pandemic. However, southwest Minnesota is facing a much larger pandemic that has extended far beyond the events unraveling in the past few months.
While attending protests, vigils, and creating art for the George Floyd memorial, I felt a sense of hope that our region was pushing toward progress for communities of color that have too long been overlooked and underserved. However, this weekend the memorial in Marshall that many community members worked to bring to life was destroyed by a vehicle driving through it. This same weekend, two individuals dawned swastika face coverings at the Walmart in Marshall and began shouting that we are reverting back to Nazi Germany. These despicable acts received national attention, revealing an uncomfortable truth: hatred is alive and well in southwest Minnesota.
We see this kind of naked hatred only occasionally, but we fear it is ever-boiling beneath the surface. Small, common prejudices are more frequent than the outbursts of this weekend, but it is enough to wound; even though it may not be the stab of a knife, a thousand paper cuts still hurt. This weekend brought into focus how the spectre of intolerance is always hovering, waiting to rear its ugly head.
Rural Minnesota has many strengths — but the most important strength we have is our people. Good people. We must not divide ourselves by the reality of a racist society. We cannot just settle with tolerance for those that are different from ourselves. We must continually work towards, acceptance and celebration for each and every wonderful human being that we are blessed to have as our neighbors. The people of color in our community are valuable individuals that deserve our support, now more than ever. In order to foster equity and justice within the larger Marshall community, we all must listen to those voices that are marginalized instead of attempting to overshadow them with our own narrative, we must continually seek out ways to educate ourselves on how we can be better allies, and we absolutely must hold those that refuse to break the cycle of this disparity accountable for their actions.
It is not enough to say we all deserve the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. We all must leverage our positions of privilege to raise up those that are most vulnerable; our neighbors, shopkeepers, friends, and colleagues. It is not enough to acknowledge diversity; we have to actively work towards inclusivity. I urge you all to reflect on what has unfolded within our community and view it as a problem we are going to face together. Racism is real. Racism is here in Marshall and southwest Minnesota. And we cannot stop fighting for the change that is desperately needed and deserved.