Pioneer Editorial: Abhorrent act shouldn't be tolerated
A burning cross, inscribed with racist comments, set in one family's yard late last week shows the greater Bemidji area still has work to do in improving race relations.
The disgusting act, by a single person or group in the cloak of night, is reminiscent of decades-old intolerance and bigotry. There is no place for cruel, terroristic acts in our community.
Early Friday, a Northern Township woman, the mother of two adult children whose father is black, discovered the 8-foot burning cross propped against a tree outside her home. After extinguishing the fire, she reported it to law enforcement.
After posts on the social media website Facebook during the Memorial Day weekend, and an inquiry Tuesday by the Pioneer, the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office asked the public to report information about the crime. Later in the afternoon, the Sheriff's Office issued a statement to denounce the act as a "bias crime."
Appropriately, Shared Vision, a community effort to address the issue of racial diversity and racial disparity in the Bemidji area, issued a statement "strongly condemning the recent hate crime actions in our community. As diverse members of the community, we firmly believe that the burning of a cross, inscribed with racist language, is an act of intimidation and violence. We strongly condemn this terrible action and the message in sends."
To the east in Duluth, a 21-year-old man said he suffered deep bruises Saturday night after allegedly being assaulted at a party, reportedly for telling people he is gay.
In response, the Duluth community rallied Monday in support of the man, and prosecutors are contemplating charges against one alleged perpetrator under the state's hate crime law, allowing for penalties for acts motivated by bias because of a victim's or another's actual or perceived race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation or disability.
On the home front, Shared Vision, an award-winning program promoting diversity in our area, encourages the Bemidji community to become a model for race relations in Minnesota.
A burning cross set outside one family's home, regardless of intent, is an abhorrent act that shouldn't be tolerated.
Our community has made steps to greater acceptance and understanding of diverse races, languages and cultures.
But more can and should be done, as Nelson Mandela said, to foster "an environment where all can flourish, regardless of race, colour, creed, religion, gender, class, caste or any other social markers of difference."