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PIONEER EDITORIAL: Respect the #BemidjiRespect movement

The #BemidjiRespect campaign started last week is definitely something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving week in Bemidji. The initiative was started by Mayor Rita Albrecht, who heard through friends of several incidents of identity-based haras...

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The #BemidjiRespect campaign started last week is definitely something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving week in Bemidji.

The initiative was started by Mayor Rita Albrecht, who heard through friends of several incidents of identity-based harassment. The Standing Together for #BemidjiRespect group includes citizens, businesses and organizations in town who want to send a message that the community will not stand for hate or intolerance.

“This is absolutely unacceptable, here or anywhere,” the group says in a full-page ad in this past Sunday’s Pioneer. “We invite you to stand with us as we affirm shared values of mutual respect and appreciation for our differences.”

Across the country, reports of racially motivated or identity-related acts of harassment and even violence have increased since Election Day. And while those with hate in their hearts may feel more emboldened by the results of Nov. 8, to say that is the only reason for these local incidents would be a mistake.

The Bemidji community long has had race relations issues. As a regional hub of commerce, government, health care and education, situated near three American Indian reservations and communities, Bemidji always will be dealing with racial and social justice issues.

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The Standing Together for #BemidjiRespect movement recognizes this fact as well. In its statement last week announcing the initiative, organizers said “supporters of the effort acknowledge that words alone cannot make hatred and intimidation go away or erase painful aspects of Bemidji’s past, especially concerning treatment of American Indians.

“We acknowledge the full history of our city, which has experienced racial, economic and other disparities and injustices. We cannot ignore difficulties, and we will not do so now.”

More than 85 businesses and organizations signed their name to support the #BemidjiRespect initiative, including the Pioneer, by Thursday’s deadline for the full-page ad. And even more have joined since, organizers said.

The key is what happens next. The #BemidjiRespect organizers must keep the movement, well, moving. Words alone will not solve problems. But discussions lead to new ways of thinking, and new ideas that can help bridge the gap between our differences.

We fully support the Standing Together for #BemidjiRespect initiative and here at the Pioneer we will do our part to keep the conversation moving forward.

If you would like to become involved, as well, organizers have created a Facebook page for the campaign: https://www.facebook.com/BemidjiRespect .

You can also join the campaign online at bit.do/ bemidjirespect or by leaving a voicemail at (218) 444-4020.

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