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‘Welcoming and inclusive’ is on all of us

Being welcoming and treating all people with dignity is essential to good character — but it’s also good from a leadership perspective.

In its strategic plan, the city states the importance of Marshalltown being a welcoming community. Leaders from the Iowa Business Council and UnityPoint have stated a need for a diverse workforce. With worker shortages and declining population plaguing rural and mid-sized communities, these leaders are right on.

As important as it is to have standards for inclusion in our governmental bodies and workplaces, it’s just as important each of us adapt those standards. A welcoming environment is not just what happens at work or in using local government services. The exchanges at the grocery store, the comments kids make in school, the way you treat your neighbors, what you post on social media and much more impact whether someone feels welcome here.

There should never be room for hate, but amongst a population as diverse as Marshalltown, understanding is of utmost importance. It is naive to believe all underrepresented groups in our city are always welcomed with open arms. Regardless of political or religious beliefs, there isn’t any reason a person should be subjected to any kind of treatment not based on the content of their character.

To be clear, there are plenty of people and groups who practice and preach inclusion. There are great initiatives happening. Marshalltownians stick up for one another and remain strong in our bond together. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t still work to do.

In a recent survey conducted at Marshalltown Schools, 18 percent of eighth-graders reported race- or color-based bullying within a month prior to the survey. Racism, classism, sexism and other prejudice exist everywhere, including Marshalltown. This isn’t solely an issue here, but if we want to address the challenges our city faces, we need to play a role in addressing it. It’s on each of us to not only treat all people with respect, but to stand against actions that are disrespectful.

Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, but no one should feel entitled to treat others in a way they wouldn’t want to be treated.

Snide, racist remarks have to go. Making fun of those with low-income backgrounds has no place here. Beliefs that women are somehow inferior to men should be tossed out the window. Treating young people as though their voices don’t matter is inappropriate. Discriminating against those with a different sexual orientation is unacceptable. Disrespecting senior citizens — as if they haven’t been active community members for decades — is uncalled for.

In some way or another, all of us have been made to feel less than. And whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we’ve all probably been the one making someone else feel less than at some point. Being welcoming and inclusive as an entire community isn’t always easy. We slip up sometimes. There is much work to do, but we can all start with something as simple as smiling at everyone we walk by and being more understanding. Our community will be better for it.