Arlington’s image scarred

  • Scott Morris and Katherine Schiffner / Herald Writers
  • Friday, March 26, 2004 9:00pm
  • Local NewsLocal news

ARLINGTON — Dawnell Siegel is proud to call herself a hick and a redneck.

"That doesn’t make me a racist," said Siegel, 15, an Arlington High School sophomore who has a Confederate flag in her bedroom. "I don’t like being stereotyped because of my heritage."

When news of the cross burning at Pastor Jason Martin’s Arlington home Tuesday hit the high school, Siegel says suspicion unfairly fell on her and her friends from rural Arlington.

At least, she said, other students believed she sympathized with the message that burning the cross sent. On her way to class Wednesday, she says another student told her, "You’re a hick. You probably did it, or you know who was involved."

Another saw her green sweat shirt with her 4-H group’s name, the Centaurs, on the back, and asked if it was a racist group, she said. Several friends reported threats and glares.

"That hurts," Siegel said. "I think (the cross burning) was a really horrible thing to do. … We are not a racist town. We’re accepting of everybody, and we don’t want to get a bad name for one act."

Siegel and six friends who went bowling at Melady Lanes in downtown Arlington Friday say they’re convinced that no one from the high school was involved in the cross burning.

Police are investigating whether the cross burning is connected to previous incidents at Arlington High School. But Lt. Terry Quintrall and school officials say it’s too early to say whether students were involved. Police and the FBI are pursing strong leads, officers said, but no arrests had been made as of Friday evening.

"We are very proud of our school and proud of our town, and we don’t want to be stereotyped as racist," freshman Kaytlyn Millich, 15, said. "We want people to feel safe at school. It really annoys me that it took something like this to bring everybody together."

Despite racist graffiti scrawled on the wall of Arlington High School last spring and reports that Martin’s 17-year-old son was called racial slurs and threatened, they claimed that any racism at the school is more subtle.

"A lot of racist people keep it to themselves. They don’t act out on it," said junior Tanya Jones, 17.

Down the street from the bowling alley, the chatter at Randy and Debbie Howell’s Magic Shears Styling Salon revolved around whether kids or adults were responsible. Some people said a kids’ prank might not be as serious, because they would not know how serious their actions were.

Sitting in Debbie Howell’s chair getting her hair cut, Leslie Hicks of Marysville had a different take.

"The kids do know," Hicks said.

She did not let adults off the hook, though.

"It’s sad. Racism is a learned thing. It’s not something you’re born with."

Hicks and her husband, Grady, lived in Arlington for a year. She is white and her husband is black, but she said they never had problems in Arlington.

Cutting Chris Gott’s hair in the adjacent chair, Lydia Ross, who is part Hispanic, agreed. She said her dark complexion sometimes causes people to ask what race she is.

"Around here, I get asked that," she said. "I think people are just really more curious. I haven’t run into any problems at all."

Down the street at the Quick Stop convenience store, Joel Yi of Everett was also surprised. Originally from South Korea, Yi said he had never been subjected to racism in Arlington.

"Maybe it could be kids and a prank, but still, it’s kind of an unnerving situation," Yi said.

Next door at the 2 Bits and More thrift shop, Michelle Martin, 18, said the news surprised her because of how well several Sudanese war orphans have been treated since moving to Arlington a few years ago as teenagers.

"Those boys were so loved at the school," Martin said. "They’re huge sweethearts."

But the latest news shows that the community needs to do more, she said.

Efforts to address the problem in local schools are under way. At Post Middle School, students have to earn the right to sign a poster of support for the Martin family by participating in the school’s tolerance and anti-bullying program.

At Arlington High School, principal Bob Penny said students want to revive a Diversity Club that dissolved a couple of years ago.

Mayor Margaret Larson said she has had a sick feeling in her stomach.

"I hurt," Larson said. "If there’s any good that comes of it, it’s that this is being revisited in homes and classrooms."

At Martin’s home Friday, neighbors and community residents stopped by to bring the family flowers, cookies or just give him a hug. Pioneer Elementary School students sent a $100 dinner gift certificate. His son said students were friendly and supportive at school Friday.

"I really believe that God is using this to bring unity," Martin said.

Reporter Eric Stevick contributed to this story.

Reporter Scott Morris: 425-339-3292 or

Reporter Katherine Schiffner: 425-339-3436 or

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