On Jan. 19 at the Washington City Council meeting, Mayor Jaron Rosien issued a proclamation in honor of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The proclamation declared that:
Washington, Iowa, is an inclusive and welcoming community to all people. We value compassion, respect, and dignity and we are committed to building a community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. I hereby affirm our dedication to equal opportunity in policy and practice, and encourage residents to likewise affirm these values not only today in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but for all time.”
Bravo to Mayor Rosien, and I hope that his call to all residents of Washington and the surrounding area will resonate and encourage all to step up to the plate and call out racism and discrimination when they see it.
I hope Washington residents will stand up for people of color in our community when they see an aggression against them. And in the worst case, I hope residents will not hesitate to report a hate crime that they might witness. Police Chief Jim Lester has expressed his commitment to fighting against such crimes.
It is time to end racism. I’m not just talking about the overt acts of meanness and aggression that is often associated with groups like the KKK, Proud Boys or neo-Nazis. Of course, we want to end those. But now it is time to end the racism that exits from the structural and systemic white supremacist culture around us, which we all participate in whether we know it or not. It is racism rooted in white privilege, white fragility and white superiority which has been the wallpaper of our society for centuries.
I would encourage fellow residents to be open to seeing this more shaded and hidden form of racism and learn how it has affected people of color to this day. We have laws that outlaw discrimination and segregation, but the work yet to be done is in the arena of cultural and structural patterns of racism that have been established for decades. White people are complicit in that system until they become aware of it and take personal responsibility to dismantle it.
The past four years has seen a rise in white supremacist terrorism and this ideology has been given dog whistles and affirmation from the highest office in our land. It is time to push back and force the worst elements of our society to pack up and move out or recede to the dark corners of the internet. And stay there.
But the work that groups like Washington for Justice and others around the state are engaged in, is to bring to our attention the insidious unconscious forms of racism that can be just as injurious as outward aggressions. I hope Washington residents will join me in applauding Mayor Rosien for taking this strong stand, and join us in this cause to fully realize the promise of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.