Racism is present, even if white people don’t hear it


When I was house hunting 36 years ago, I went to several local cities, parked in a prospective neighborhood and walked the dog. Only in Snohomish were people out, also walking dogs, working in their yards, willing to stop and chat. I bought a house in Snohomish and moved.

In recent years, I have heard or witnessed generally small individual incidents of racist attitude or speech. Were these deadly or threatening? No. Were they harmful? Yes.

Snohomish is lovely; it is safe; it is friendly. I am white. Mayor John Kartak, Council Members Steve Dana and Larry Countryman, and aspiring city politician Don Baldwin are also white. The unwelcoming racist comments and speech were not aimed at me. Nor would they be aimed at our white male politicians. But I do believe they are only a minute fraction of what residents of color in Snohomish have to contend with. I believe the testaments of residents and students of color, and those close to them.

When white, middle-aged or elderly men completely and angrily negate the experiences of individuals of color they are demonstrating racism in action. They are saying the white male experience is the only reality that counts. Unassailable white male privilege trumps all. Is their racism conscious? Perhaps not. Nevertheless, their intent is to shame and silence.

To overcome bigotry takes self-awareness, empathy, fearlessness, openness, an anti-racist skill set and practice. There are many, many Snohomishites with the first four. The last two Snohomishites need help to strengthen.

Jan Lengenfelder


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