In her letter to the editor, located below on this page, Coupeville resident Christine Laing says, “To get rid of racism, we need first identify it, and call it out when we see it.”
She is also critical of my decision to publish letters that contain statements offensive to minorities, black people in particular.
It is, she argues, the newspaper’s responsibility to squelch such discrimination.
I would argue that Christine Laing and I are entirely in agreement that we need to identify racism to eliminate it.
We differ in how to approach the issue.
When the Black Lives Matter movement was starting to rise nationwide, just before protests reached Oak Harbor and the rest of Whidbey Island, we took the position as a newspaper that our community leaders should take the opportunity to look within, have candid conversations and see what they could do to help to eliminate systemic racism.
Members of the Langley City Council did just that, much to their credit.
In response to our suggestion that communities look inward, we received letters to the editor maintaining that systemic racism no longer exists. One letter writer said systemic racism “faded” long ago.
Well, no, it didn’t, but the fact that people in our community believe differently tells us exactly why we need to have an open and honest community discussion.
And that is why I include letters to the editor that may offend. Systemic racism is allowed to fester and grow in the shadows. I grew up believing that, as a country, we had gotten better. The death of George Floyd revealed otherwise.
In order to call out racism, we have to first acknowledge that it exists. Only then can we identify it, and then we can call it out. We don’t have the luxury of just shaking our heads and chalking it all up to generational differences, or the “salty tongue” of a friend, neighbor or relative.
As uncomfortable as the discourse may be, to pretend racist beliefs aren’t embedded in the fabric of our community is to blissfully deny the truth. If a letter to the editor makes you mad, maybe that’s because it should.
If a letter spurs a person, or a community, to take action — to do better — so much the better.
• Keven R. Graves is executive editor and publisher of the Whidbey News Group. He can be reached by email at email@example.com