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Diversity is what makes us Marshalltown Strong

T-R file photo Participants of the Marshalltown Strong CommUnity event held in Marshalltown in June.

It seems as though it has become much more socially acceptable to say and think what is on your mind with complete disregard for others.

Unfortunately there are several members within our community who do not believe racism is a problem.

I have been witness and victim to several instances of racism in the Marshalltown area in the last month alone. I’ve overheard people using racial slurs in public places, people making derogatory comments about women of color and backhanded compliments that can be extremely damaging to someone’s racial identity.

While my story in regards to personal discrimination is not short I am also not alone.

Our stories and experiences as minorities in America are not up for debate. This is our reality. Experiencing and surviving racism does not feel brave. It feels cold, lonely and above all helpless. Explaining to a small child that discrimination and hatred is something they will experience for the rest of their life is not much easier.

I envy those who can say they have not had to experience this for themselves or have these conversations with their children — this is privilege. The community dialogue was sparked when Holly Buckley, and now many others, chose to devote their time to sitting on a corner simply holding signs pleading to end racism. Surprisingly, many were so upset by their subtle presence some took it as far to name call, throw a middle finger while driving by and some even parked to verbally harass them.

Although this is not representative of our community as a whole, it is still troubling we have people who would verbally harass someone for holding a sign simply stating “End Racism.”

When I started sharing my personal experiences many were shocked and saddened to hear them and asked me to continue. Where do we go from here? How can we be better? I urge you to get involved. Spend time educating yourself. Take time to learn about opportunities available to you in your community that may put you outside of your comfort zone. Have a conversation with someone who doesn’t look like you and ask them about their experiences.

We should all aim to lead with kindness and understanding because at the end of the day our diversity as a community is truly what makes us Marshalltown Strong.

——

Aly Wenner is the program director for REM Iowa

Community Services in Marshalltown.

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