Recently, someone poisoned the grass near our house during the night to spell out the word “RACISTS” in 3-foot-tall letters with an arrow pointing at our home.
After the initial surprise wore off, we started wishing we could talk to the messenger and hear what they are angry about.
Perhaps they were offended that as three white people we have a sign in our yard that states “Black Lives Matter.”
Maybe they are suffering from the housing crisis in Southern Oregon and can’t find an affordable place to live.
Maybe they can’t pay their bills because their job doesn’t pay a living wage.
Maybe they are feeling the financial pressure of crushing student debt, or worry about being able to afford a good education for their kids.
Plenty of people in our community are worried and angry, and the situation is only going to get worse as Congress and the White House cut health care, education, transportation and other services that benefit our families and communities — all in order to increase subsidies and special tax breaks for the richest 1 percent and the biggest corporations.
If we could talk, we could discuss who is actually responsible for the attacks on our quality of life. Is it really our neighbors who happen to be people of color or maybe of a different religion? Or is it those who use their wealth to control the political process in order to make themselves even wealthier at everyone else’s expense?
If we could talk, we could tell you why we support local organizations that are trying to do something about the problems we all face — groups like Unite Oregon and Southern Oregon Housing for All.
If we could talk, we could explain why we had that sign on our lawn — because people of color face not only the problems white folks here are facing but also an extra layer of additional obstacles. We could discuss whether we are better off when we work together, regardless of race and ethnicity, than when we allow ourselves to be divided.
We could exchange information about the constructive steps law enforcement agencies in the Rogue Valley are taking to recognize the biases we all carry, the policies they use to try to prevent profiling, and talk about what other measures need to be taken.
Whoever carved that message in the lawn called us “racists.” Well, it’s true, but not in the way they apparently meant it. We all hold unconscious racial biases that we have absorbed from the larger society. Racism has a long history in Southern Oregon, and unfortunately it is alive and well today. Since July 2016 alone, the Racial Equity Coalition has documented 155 acts of hate against people of color in the Rogue Valley. And racial discrimination is still built into many of our institutions including schools, hospitals and the criminal justice system, whether intended or not.
If we could talk with our neighborhood’s midnight messenger, we would invite them to come to one of the conversations taking place in our community about racism and how it keeps us from winning economic and social justice for everyone. If anyone reading this is interested in doing that, you can find out more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also help by donating to local racial justice groups like the Racial Equity Coalition, Unete Center for Farm Worker Advocacy, the Northwest Forest Worker Center, and the Northwest Seasonal Workers Association.
If you have witnessed or experienced acts of hate or bias, please consider reporting it to the Community Rapid Response Team at racialequityso.org/resources. All reports are confidential, and no action will be taken without your consent.
It’s not easy to talk about racism and the role it plays in holding our communities back and keeping us divided. But we hope you will join us in reaching out and taking action for everyone’s benefit.
Morgan Lindsay, Stuart O’Neill and K. Smith