"This mess, this message must stop"
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:57 PM
"Who are you? What do we know about you? What can we guess about your heart, your mind?Given your means of expression - toppling gravestones in cemeteries, defacing the island with racist slogans - it's tempting to conclude that you are blessed with neither.But that's too reductive. For you are one of us; surely we know you and talk to you and see you every day living in our midst, even if we have no idea that it's you who's responsible for these acts.So we ask: Who are you? And why do you do this?We suspect that you're young and white, probably the product of a middle-class upbringing, surrounded by affluence and beauty and opportunity, yet personally directionless and bored out of your skull. Perhaps you paint swastikas and phrases like white pride because you find in their meaning some visceral appeal; perhaps, too, they hold power - you know they'll always get a rise out of the adults around you. Perhaps you think it's all a joke.Who are you? Some of us would like to ignore your handiwork as simple vandalism, more random destruction of our public and private spaces with meaningless symbols and tags. But to do so would be to surrender to the inevitability of such coarseness - and to ignore the message you choose to impart. We have, as a community, grown so tired of such destruction, even if we're still pretty good about cleaning it up.Too, some of us would like to dismiss your message as mere childishness, prankery, the product a consciousness not yet fully formed. But we can't. We can't, because dismissing it will not make it go away. We know the pain your words instill in those who you have targeted for intimidation. We know that we must confront your message and speak out against it, for the moment we dismiss racism is the moment we accept it.Some of us would heap some blame upon ourselves. For surely, if you are the product of our schools, our neighborhoods and our churches, and yet you carry around such ignorance and hate, then we have been remiss in your upbringing. For that, we grieve. But your actions remain your own, and we will hold you accountable.Some of us fear for you. We recall a young man named Mark, who a decade ago papered our small island with racist literature. He believed in his message, and indeed proved to have the courage of his convictions. Within a year or so of his stay here, he beat a young Asian American man to death near an Olympia railroad tunnel, then used a rifle to kill a motorist. He is in prison now, his life wasted. We don't fear you, but we fear for you.Who are you?You hide behind anonymity and the cover of night. Your acts and words leave us disgusted; they leave us angry. Perhaps most of all, they leave us saddened.What can we do to make you understand? "