Friday, August 28, 2020

A Peace Proclamation in Washington, IA

By: Roger Farmer

 At the Washington Iowa City Council meeting on Tuesday, August 4, 2020, a routine request was made to use the Washington Central Park on Sunday August 9, 2020, for a public presentation entitled "A Peace Proclamation" by Dr Kesho Scott, a professor at Grinnell College, about the meaning of anti-racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. A diversity trainer and gender consultant, Scott is the mother of four and has also toured the world to conduct workshops entitled "Unlearning Racism," where people have a safe place to talk about race and racism in hopes of challenging cross-cultural and multicultural ignorance.

 Unexpectedly, two Washington City council members objected to this presentation, making remarks that were widely perceived to be racist. After discussion, the Washington City Council did approve the presentation by a vote of 4 - 2. The racist remarks of the city council members provoked a strong reaction on Facebook and social media, including the creation of a new Facebook group called "Washington For Justice," currently with 172 members. 

 Professor Scott's presentation was well attended with estimates of 300 people listening to her presentation in Washington Central Park. (Professor Scott was introduced by Carol Ray, a member of the local public library board, and I provided a blessing and prayer to begin the presentation. Professor Scott's presentation is about an hour long but worth your time to see. You can watch the archived live stream of this presentation at this link: (I don't think you need to have a Facebook account to play it) :[%7B%5C%22surface%5C%22%3A%5C%22permalink%5C%22%2C%5C%22mechanism%5C%22%3A%5C%22surface%5C%22%2C%5C%22extra_data%5C%22%3A%7D]%22%7D&active_tab=discussion 

….. Also, a number of letters to the editor of the Washington newspaper were published objecting to the racist comments of the Washington City council members. Here is a link to one of several letters: 

 At the next regularly scheduled Washington City Council meeting on Tuesday, August 18, 2020, discussion continued about these racist comments. The council members responsible refused to apologize and the controversy was reported on local TV, radio, and newspaper. Washington City Council meetings are recorded and the audio recordings are posted on the city website. 

 You can listen to the August 18, 2020, Washington City Council meeting at: 

 Unfortunately, the public comment section of the city council meeting went on for an hour and included comments about fireworks and sex offenders as well as the racist city council comments. The first comment about the racist remarks occurred about 25:31. 

 Following are links to several media reports about this meeting: KWWL (Channel 7) report on racists statements by Washington City Council members 

 KCII Radio report: WASHINGTON COUNCILORS STAND BY REMARKS, PUBLIC ASKS FOR APOLOGY AND DIVERSITY TRAINING Southeast Iowa Union newspaper: Washington council members do not issue apology for perceived racist comments

 So as you can see, the controversy continues. I was surprised both by the racist City Council comments and also by the strong and public reaction against these comments. I didn't know there were so many concerned persons in Washington, and I didn't know who they were, so the situation so far has helped persons concerned about opposing racism to find each other. 

 If you would like to keep up on this situation, feel free to join the FaceBook group "Washington for Justice."

 Roger Farmer is a member of the Washington Mennonite Church in Washington, IA, and leads the group JPOG (Just Peace Outreach Group) for those interested in peace issues.

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