Racial hatred ‘alive and well’

ARLINGTON — Three years after a cross was burned on his front yard, a black pastor from Arlington says racial hatred still exists in Snohomish County.

“Obviously racism is still alive and well,” said Jason Martin, pastor at Lord Life is Jesus Tabernacle in Marysville. “We’re kidding ourselves to think that somehow it’s just going to go away.”

A racial slur and a swastika were spray-painted Sunday on a home being built in Arlington about two miles away from where the pastor lives. Last week, several swastikas were scrawled onto cars in Mill Creek.

More needs to be done locally, Martin said Wednesday.

Community rallies, similar to the one that followed the 2004 cross burning at his home, need to take place annually, Martin said. People need to talk to their neighbors about hatred and racism.

Faith-based leaders from around Snohomish County plan to meet this week to develop a response to the recent graffiti, officials said.

That kind of organizing can have a lasting effect, said Mark Potok, a spokesman from the Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Ala.

“From the smallest incident to the largest, very often a broad community response can make the community healthier,” he said.

Arlington and Mill Creek police have made no arrests in the two incidents. Detectives are still working both cases.

“Sometimes you can’t change people’s attitudes, but you certainly can make them accountable,” Arlington Mayor Margaret Larson said. “We need to find the people responsible.”

The most recent graffiti is infuriating, Larson said. But it’s too early to jump to conclusions.

“The first inclination is that you want to go out and assume that it’s this and that,” she said. “We have to let (police) do their job to find out what the real issue is.”

The people targeted recently in Arlington and Mill Creek believe the incidents are hate crimes. Under the state’s hate laws, police must prove the vandalism was motivated by intolerance for someone’s race, color, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation or handicap.

Since the cross burning, Arlington has worked on building respect in the community, Larson said. The mayor said she often attends “respect” summits in the schools, where children learn about diversity.

That’s not enough, Martin said.

Racial slurs still are hurled at his teenage children, he said. And while he’s spoken outside the community about racism, he’s never been invited to talk about it where he lives.

“Not one time has anyone in Arlington asked me to come address this matter,” he said. “It happened in my front yard.”

Kevin Bates, the pastor at Advent Lutheran in Mill Creek, has counseled his parishioners about the dangers of hateful signs and speech. He is among the clergy planning to meet later this week.

“Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ Absolutely there needs to be a response,” Bates said. “What’s called for is to step outside our comfort zone and stand up for our neighbors and stand for what’s right.”

The changing demographics in Snohomish County are part of what’s causing the rise in racially motivated incidents, Communities of Color Coalition chairwoman Kinuko Noborikawa said.

“This is not what we stand for in this community,” Noborikawa said. “We will be active in fighting these kind of things.”

County government has worked to help develop curriculum for schools and sponsored study circles to teach tolerance, Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon said.

“We need to be unified in sending a message that Snohomish County is not a place where hate and prejudice are tolerated,” he said.

The response to racism must be thoughtful, broad-reaching and encompassing, said Heidi Piel, president of the Temple Beth Or in Everett.

“Both the racial epitaph and swastika are powerful in what they conjure and represent and thus need to be taken seriously,” she said. “Our hearts and care go out to those who have suffered this.”

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or jholtz@heraldnet.com.

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