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New York Times

“Community for everyone”?Not so fast, says this Wisconsin county

Wausau, Wisconsin — One night, a standing crowd fills the monotonous courthouse meeting room, and a messy year-round as to whether Marathon County should declare themselves a “community of all”. I tried to resolve the argument. Director William Harris, the only black member of the county committee, stood up and begged a colleague who opposed the resolution to change his mind. “I want to feel like I’m part of this community,” he said. “That’s what many of our inhabitants say. We want to contribute to our community. We want to feel like a member of this community.” New York Times Sign up for the morning newsletter from, but fellow board members were just as enthusiastic at the Thursday meeting, claiming that recognizing racial disparity was itself a form of racism. .. “If you choose to isolate one group of people and promote them over another, it’s discrimination,” said former white police officer Craig McEwen. When George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis in May 2020, communities and businesses around the world engaged in calculations of social justice, diversity and inclusion. However, while many other communities have adopted new policies and declared progress, the residents of Marathon County, with a population of 135,000, 91% white, disagreed with what to say. .. A year later, they can’t do it yet. The only consensus that has emerged is that the protracted battle for the four-word phrase exacerbated the situation, tearing this central Wisconsin county community and amplifying the tension that had boiled before Floyd’s death. is. Whether former President Donald Trump’s four-year racial division in the White House endured the daily lives of a town like Warsau, exacerbated by the death of a black American by a white police officer, and racist It has been burned to a local institution that led to a new battle over. Warsaw is an old paper mill town full of working-class manufacturing workers, medical professionals, and people working in the tourism industry, but the division here is that the opposite view of racial equality shakes American life. Acts as a window to the method. Eventually, the county committee’s executive committee rejected the resolution with a 6-2 vote on Thursday night. As a result, both sides say it’s worse than never thought of it in the first place. Proponents say that failure to reach an agreement will act as the black eye of the public and convey the message of an unwelcome community. Opponents argue that the fight is a waste of time, and even if it doesn’t, it makes the county look like a racist. “I don’t have the same type of trust or trust in the community as before,” said KaLo, a Hmong descendant supervisor who said he was threatened with murder while seeking a solution. “I was born and raised here, but I’m not aware of the community I grew up in now.” The story of “Community for All” tells a small group of county authorities that local colored races It began last summer when it began drafting a resolution hoping to acknowledge the disparities it faces. The original title “No Place of Hatred” was considered too inflamed and was renamed to “Community for All”. After six revisions and countless negotiations and debates, they wrote a document calling on the county to “achieve racial and ethnic equality to promote cross-cultural understanding and defend minority groups.” It has arrived. For the blacks and Hmong people here, the resolution gave them hope that their fight for inclusion would lead to greater unity. They said Floyd’s posthumous protests gave him permission to reject the daily resentment they were suffering from-if they needed the help of a white friend to rent an apartment, or to whites in the community. For example, when you think that you are receiving public support. Like many small American cities, Wausau, a seat in Marathon County, has evolved into a regional hospital hub. Surrounded by small towns and villages, dairy farms and land that produces 95% of the country’s ginseng. The county has long been politically competitive, swaying among Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama before supporting Trump twice. According to the 1970 census, Wausau listed four black residents and 76 as “others” out of a population of nearly 33,000. In 1976, a local church began welcoming the Hmong refugees from Laos who supported the US war effort there before the United States fled when it left Vietnam. The Hmong currently make up about 9% of Wausau’s population, second only to St. Paul, Minnesota. Outside the courthouse, a statue stands to commemorate the alliance between the Hmong and the US military. The resolution was proposed by Yee Leng Xiong, the secretary-general of the Hmong American Center in Wausau. For older, conservative white residents, tensions about diversity and inclusion in central Wisconsin have led to a small number of colored young progressives winning county board seats over the past few years. It wasn’t until I started asking for feedback. In June 2019, the Board officially approved Pride Month for the first time. A month later, supervisors almost revoked approval in response to protests from conservative members. In February of this year, Florida-born lawyer Harris, 38, claimed to be the first black member of the county committee in 2020 to recognize Black History Month for the first time. I passed narrowly. Harris also quickly pointed out to the board that authorities have a history of promoting local initiatives such as broadband access and healthcare, benefiting primarily whites. Whiteboard members representing the local community did not appreciate the lecture. “They are causing conflict among those who label us as racist and privileged because we are white,” said the county commissioner for 11 years73. Arnold Schlei, a year-old retired veal farmer supervisor, said in an interview. “I can’t tell people who move their tails from day to dark that they have white privileges, are racists, and need to treat Hmong, people, and homosexuals better. He is a racist. People are fed up with it. “He and others who oppose the resolution say that admitting the disparities faced by people of color would put social interests in their interests. Insisted. The word “fairness” in the resolution prompted many to falsely claim that commemorating it as a goal would lead the county to rob whites and give them to people of color. .. Opponents of the resolution made extensive claims about its potential impact. Local Republican chairman Jack Hoogendyk said the resolution would lead to “the end of private property” and “redistribution of wealth based on race.” In fact, there is no racism in Marathon County, and some argue that it is not the job of the county committee to do anything about it, if any. James Jedes, a dairy farmer living on a farm just east of Wausau and living with his family for 126 years, is one of the most public opponents of this resolution. He also organized a protest against the protests of the local Black Lives Matter. In an interview on his farm, 51-year-old Jewedes said systematic racism “doesn’t exist here,” suggesting that those pushing the resolution do so for financial gain. did. “I still don’t remember all kinds of racial cases that caused all sorts of stress reported in this community,” he said. La’Tanya Campbell, a 39-year-old black social worker who attended last week’s meeting, shared another experience. Campbell said he works as an advocate for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking, and may have to hire a white colleague to help clients find an apartment to rent in Warsaw. It was. When she campaigned for a resolution, Campbell said the subtle racism she had experienced in Wausau for a long time became apparent, including an email of hatred calling blacks “animals.” .. She looked for a cure to deal with stress. “Usually the racism you experience is in a closed room, but I can’t believe some of what I’ve heard since I started this resolution,” she said. “You find it dangerous to be a woman. I find it dangerous to be a black woman. And if you’re doing an anti-repression job, it’s summed up.” By the day of the meeting for consideration, few were left undecided. Some white attendees distributed a copy of an article in The Epoch Times, a newspaper that trafficked Trump’s supportive conspiracy theories about the 2020 elections. Transgender women in favor of the resolution wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts. Twenty-eight people each addressed the board for three minutes. Eighteen opposed the resolution and ten supported it. Retired engineer Bruce Bohr called the resolution a gift for the county’s colored races. “The government can’t give anything to someone without robbing it from someone else,” Bohr said. Retired insurance assessor supervisor EJ Stark said he would hold the county liable for legal damages “if someone seems to be looking at someone.” It was up to the colored race of the board to insist on it. If the board rejected the resolution, Xiong warned of the financial disaster. “If the resolution does not pass, it can adversely affect our employment, our economy and other areas of business,” he said. Harris then begged his white colleague to see the colored race as an equal citizen. “People of color have come here,” he said. “They want to contribute. They want to be accepted and acknowledged.” The entire county committee may revisit the resolution, but it is clear that it will not pass. John Robinson, a community for all supporters who have been on the board since 1974, said 14 to 16 of the 38 votes were in favor of “a good day” after the meeting. Both Lo and Campbell said they were considering moving away from Wausau to a place that more welcomes colored people. However, although she believes that the controversy over the resolution fostered political polarization of the community and caused her personal trauma, Campbell said the fight was worth the effort. “If you don’t keep talking and seeking its fairness and awareness, nothing will change,” she said in the court lobby after the vote. “So that won’t happen in my life, but with my children and grandchildren, I’m fighting for them, for the children and grandchildren of others. I All of our ancestors wouldn’t have anything if they stopped fighting. “This article was originally published in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company

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