COL Anti-racism pledge circulated

Mayor's group seeks to build unity in community

Building a peaceful community takes time, effort and planning and everyone has a part to play in the effort.

That's why the revived "Not in Our Town Committee" has adopted a three-part program to encourage friendly relations among all ethnic groups in Rochester. Mayor Chuck Canfield revived the committee after two racial incidents in the community. One involved scratching hate messages on a number of parked cars and the other was the posting of racial hate literature on telephone poles in the city. The fliers bore a letterhead of the National Alliance, a white supremacist group from West Virginia.

Canfield decided that it is best to be proactive and challenged the committee to adopt a positive program and to enlist the support of the community.

The three-part program includes establishment of a media committee to keep the public informed on the issue, creation of a network of agencies to respond promptly to racial incidents and a plan to get neighborhoods and individuals directly involved in building personal relationships among different racial and ethnic groups.


The media campaign includes an appeal to every Rochester resident to sign a pledge to help "create a living and working environment that is free of racial and ethnic violence, religious intolerance and other forms of bigotry." The pledge is appearing in newspaper ads this week and signers are urged to deposit them at city hall or any Kwik Trip store. Pledges also will be distributed at the National Night Out neighborhood observances Tuesday night.

The interagency group is designed to make it easy for various agencies -- including the police department, Victims Services and the Olmsted County Human Rights Commission -- to assist victims of hate crimes. Gayle Kall, chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission, said the group has been working on such a program to make sure that there is a proper response if such an incident occurs.

A third task force is working on ways to improve understanding and relationships among the various racial and ethnic groups that make up the city. Kristin Mannix, associate director of development for the Diversity Council, said plans include family-to-family and neighborhood-to-neighborhood exchanges and other means of building positive relationships.

The overall committee also plans to work together with a similar committee representing Rochester area churches in order to coordinate their programs.

Dottie Hecht, facilitator for the Not in Our Town Committee, said in an earlier statement that, "As ugly as racism is, complacency is uglier. Before we can address the institution of racism collectively in Rochester, we must address our individual responsibility to recognize it, to expose it, to respond to it, to personally take a stand …"

; One way to do that is to sign -- and get your family and neighbors to sign -- the pledge entitled "Prejudice Isn't Welcome" and return it to the committee.

Mayor Canfield did the right thing in reviving the committee and seeking to prevent any future problems rather than waiting for a serious incident to occur.

Bill Boyne, who wrote the above editorial, is a member of the mayor's committee.

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