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Thursday, September 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

Donald Trump and the Inland Northwest can’t rest in the fight against prejudice


Stop it!

Apparently, the racist who spray-painted the N-word on the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center early Tuesday did not hear president-elect Donald Trump’s call Sunday to those misinterpreting his victory as a license to hate.

It’s unfortunate it even needed saying, but since the election there has been a lot of lashing out by supporters and opponents, to the discredit of both sides.

The sneak attack on the MLK center was not the only local incident. A gay Washington State University student found his vehicle tagged with slurs.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Washington trails only California and Texas in the number of hate incidents reported since last Tuesday. The good news was a steep fall in such reports by Monday.

The MLK center and WSU incidents are much the exception, with center officials unable to recall any previous racist graffiti and campus police able to recall only one previous investigation into a hate crime. But acts of bigotry have occurred, as they always have.

At Gonzaga University, students wrote messages of reconciliation and unity on campus sidewalks to counter fears Trump’s election would sanctify the racism and xenophobia among his supporters. A few students – of what? – responded by spitting and throwing water on the chalkwork.

A gathering of Eastern Washington University students – concerned that their status as undocumented immigrants exposed them to potential deportation – were interrupted by a shout of “Trump,” as if the name had become a shorthand for cultural hostility.

Trump’s statement on “60 Minutes” says otherwise, but he will have to go further. The passions he rode into the White House were sustained in part by malice toward the nation’s first black president – anger he encouraged by questioning President Obama’s citizenship.

And it would be discouraging if Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions was appointed attorney general, as has been rumored. Session’s record on civil rights as a U.S. attorney was so bad that, when named to a U.S. District Court seat by President Ronald Reagan, the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected his appointment, with two Republicans and a senator from his own state voting with the majority.

But whatever the signals from Washington, D.C., the Inland Northwest has never been confused about how to respond to racial provocateurs.

By noon Tuesday, Mayor David Condon, City Council President Ben Stuckart, and dozens of citizens had rallied to the MLK center, paint brushes in hand, to cover a smear aimed at children.

When white supremacists tried to stake out a homeland in North Idaho in the 1980s and 1990s, the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations carried the day for civil rights.

Prejudice will always be out there, lurking in the shadows or strutting in daylight. Our fight against it can never stop.

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