After recent shootings across the nation and world inspired by racism, Arlington residents and officials came together for a ‘No Place for Hate’ rally on Aug. 28.
Arlington United Church organized the event.
“It’s a small thing, but as our bishop says, ‘do something,’” said Deena Jones, pastor at the church.
Jones said the event started as a response to the recent El Paso and Dayton shootings.
The El Paso shooting left 22 dead and the shooter’s manifesto pointed toward white nationalist and anti-immigrant motives.
Jones said that since then there have been more threats and that racism isn’t limited to just those shooters.
“The threats to people's lives is very real, so this is no time to mince our words. It’s time for us in the majority culture to admit that we’ve been lulled into thinking that racism is a thing of the past,” she said.
“Our brothers and sisters of color are under no such illusion, and have been waiting with long suffering and patience for us to see the truth.”
About 40 locals gathered for the event and marched from Arlington United Church to Legion Park to listen to community members encourage a broader conversation on racism in the community.
“Our government, our community, our country, cannot endure permanently when it is full of hate. We need to instead strengthen our communities,” said Arlington City Council member Mike Hopson.
“Love and kindness are the most effective answer to hate,” wrote Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert in a statement read at the rally.
Arlington Police Chief Jonathan Ventura said that local police officers receive implicit and explicit bias training and take incidents in the city seriously.
“Arlington is a great place, but I will be honest with you, we have had incidents in the past that have had to do with racism and things of that nature,” he said.
“Thankfully, the incidence rate is very low in Arlington, but that doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels.”
Jessica Ronhaar, executive director of Stilly Valley Youth Dynamics, also said that she tries to instill inclusivity in the children she works with.
“An awakening I had a couple of years ago is that sometimes we are in a different place than different people,” she said. “We help our students to see that as well, that no matter gender or race or whatever they are, they are well cared for.”
Will Nelson, director of equity and student success at the Arlington School District and a member of the Blackfeet Tribe, said that historical oppression still has long-lasting effects for many.
“That oppression continues today as Native Americans struggle to hold onto traditional values and culture,” he said.
Generational trauma has affected many in groups that have been marginalized.
“My immediate family saw the destruction of addiction and alcoholism. Like many others in our community, childhood trauma impacted my childhood years,” he said.
“I am resilient, but not of all of us are so lucky,” he added.
Diversity helps improve a community, said Nelson.
“Our community is so much richer because of our neighbors. Our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender kids and neighbors. Our Jewish, African-American and Latinx [the gender-neutral word for Latino/Latina] kids and neighbors. Our Native American kids and neighbors,” he said.
Nelson encourages everyone to “get involved in the conversation and lean in to conversations about equity for all.”
He is helping to organize a multi-cultural equity event that is currently scheduled for May called ‘Stronger Together’ and hopes that people will look out for more information about the event as it becomes available.