Letter to the Editor

The insidious thing about racism is that it’s not always as blatant as one might expect. There’s this old idea that a racist is someone wearing a white hood burning a cross, or waving a Nazi flag while chanting “White Power!” Everyone can recognize these overt symbols of hate, but sometimes to identify prejudice you have to read between the lines.

Take, for example, a political letter that suggests a Native American woman can’t “fairly” represent white people in the Iowa legislature because she will be biased against them. Interesting argument. I wonder if the same writer would question whether a white man representing the same county would be biased against the black and brown residents in his district. Surely, the same metric applies. Right?

One of the oldest racist tactics is to portray anyone who doesn’t look like you, sound like you, or have the same beliefs as you, as some “Dangerous Other” coming to steal your land, your tax revenue, your culture, etc. In fact, if there was a Doddy Old Racist Handbook, the chapter on the Dangerous Other would fall somewhere between referring to all Hispanic people as illegal immigrants and touting the dangers of “people from Chicago” as a way to disparage African Americans.

Othering isn’t a new practice, and it’s certainly not unique to Tama County. For a long time, it was simply accepted as a way for those in power to remain in power by diminishing, subjugating, and dehumanizing those who were not like them. You see it invoked most often when groups that have held power for decades (or centuries) feel their grip on power in jeopardy. For them, dismantling systemic racism means dismantling their feeling of superiority; it means dissolving their absolute power. It’s a shock to the system, albeit an antiquated system that’s in need of a good jolt.

This year, the U.S. marked the centennial of (white) women’s suffrage. Native Americans were not afforded the same rights until 1924, and it wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that suffrage was truly protected. Each of these milestones marked a step forward in the fight for equality and equal representation. Now, it’s as important as ever that we listen to those whose voices have so long been silenced, and stand up to those who would silence them again.

I am proud to support Christina Blackcloud for Iowa House District 72 because her passion, vision, and values are what this district needs. The fact she would be the first indiginous woman elected to the state legislature – well, that’s just a bonus.

Any claim that a person of color is incapable of representing people from all backgrounds is at best a racist dog whistle, and at worst a callous call for minority disenfranchisement. Think about THAT long and hard before you vote.

Jason Staker

Toledo, Iowa