Snohomish anti-racism group
SNOHOMISH — Nearly 100 people turned up to show their intolerance for racism in Snohomish at a Sept. 17 meeting at the Snohomish Library.
This summer, after a lone Nazi sympathizer demonstrated on a downtown corner, racial epithets were marked on a nearby sidewalk, photos of youth with a Confederate flag heightened parents’ concerns, and several
“it’s OK to be white” signs went up, a local group decided it was time to recruit.
Snohomish for Equity invited the community to create dialogue and awareness, sharing their stories and strategies to create a more tolerant community.
“We’re not going to solve racism tonight,” organizer Rachel Escoto acknowledged at the outset. The group aimed first to educate people through their own experiences.
For some, those experiences included hearing racial epithets in school.
Pam Marsh, who was raised and also raised children in Snohomish, was a target of the same epithets and worse.
She recalled many kind friends and neighbors from her 1970s school years, but also others who continually called her the
n-word and the families who wouldn’t let their children date her or attend her parties. She remembered the consequence when she spoke back to a group of them, too: “All of the sudden we were on the floor and this coat I’d just gotten for Christmas, I was so happy about, got torn as I was pushed and shoved by four huge guys.”
Marsh’s children went to public and private schools in Snohomish in the 1990s and early 2000s and heard some of the same slurs, once seeing graffiti of a lynched man on a chalkboard.
While those incidents were years past, they spoke to a racist undercurrent Marsh is concerned still exists. Teens attending the meeting said they had heard the same epithets recently.
Bridging the gap was Eleanor Church, who said she was raised many decades ago to be racist, an attitude she now decried and called insidious. Church, Marsh and more than 90 others came together to denounce racism and learn how to fight it.
As the meeting closed, the people in the room read a “not in our town” pledge aloud: “I pledge to stand up to all forms of hate, bigotry and bullying. I will not stay silent in the face of intolerance based on race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, religion, ability or any other factor. I will work together with my neighbors to create safer, more inclusive communities for all.”
By the night’s end, more than half of the people who went had turned in forms indicating they’d like to participate in the anti-racism effort.
Nearly 50 said they were interested in more education, 30 wanted to participate in interest groups and 15 were willing to lead them. An additional seven people signed on to work with the school district on equity issues.
In parallel, City Council members recently met with NAACP Snohomish County to tackle the topic. Council President Jason Sanders said he hoped Snohomish would be a model for small cities addressing racism. In a follow-up interview, Sanders said the city would also be working on a proclamation. Sanders was joined at the meeting by fellow council members and Mayor John Kartak.
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