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Sunday, July 12, 2020

OPINION: Racism is present in Baltimore, Bellingham and beyond

Racism exists. It’s everywhere. Even in towns like Bellingham, Washington. With the recent death of Freddie Gray and the protests in Baltimore, we see that the issue of racism is still alive and thriving in our society. It’s 2015 — have people not yet come to their senses?

Last weekend at the Saturday, May 9, Bellingham Farmers Market, a group of Bellingham residents marched in hopes of creating public pressure regarding police accountability. Nearly 60 people came out on the sunny Saturday afternoon to voice their concerns about police brutality and Gray’s death. Gray died of a spinal injury while in police custody.

The conversation on police brutality and racially motivated violence on campus was last opened during summer and fall 2014, with the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The Western Front even wrote a similar opinion editorial and news article related to the protests that took place for months on end all across the U.S. Since then, we have heard important members of the campus community calling for equal treatment for minorities and the elimination of discrimination for marginalized identities.

In Bellingham, people are generally progressive and culturally intellectual. But even in our communities issues of race still appear. In fall quarter 2014, a Western student of color gave a testimony at a Black Student Union event on racism on campus, in which she discussed an event that happened within our community that was terribly racist. We know that no race is superior or inferior — so why do these issues still take place? Racial profiling is actively expressing the belief that one race is above another, something that is inconceivably ignorant.

Other parts of our nation have considerably different cultures, some deeply rooted in old belief systems that the modern mind would consider archaic and simply ludicrous. Racism is one of those beliefs. When men or women of this mindset are given a gun and badge, powers are abused. This creates a stigma that there is a separation between the authorities and the citizens, a divide that should not exist. We shouldn’t fear those who are meant to protect us, and those with the power to protect should do just that, instead of imposing their own ideologies.

Change is necessary, but one thing’s for sure: it won’t come immediately. Leadership, active voices and education are the actions that we can observe to make a difference. Violence and rioting against the police are acts that only bite the hand that feeds. Of course the acts of mistreatment that have taken place against citizens of color are horrific, but fire will not, and never has, put out fire.

Student clubs such as the Black Student Union, M.E.Ch.A, Filipino-American Student Association and the other 14 clubs under the Ethnic Student Center are hard at work designing events and meetings to break down barriers and educate students about culture and ethnicity. Supporting these students and building a sense of empathy toward different races will add to the change. As a university, we have a responsibility to our community and the rest of the nation to be leaders in progressive thinking and innovation within our society.

The editorial board is composed of Anna Jentoft, Dylan Green, Brandon Stone and Stephanie Villiers.

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