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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Matt Albertson: All in Coeur d’Alene should denounce racism against Utah players

Matt Albertson

By Matt Albertson

This past week I took a road trip to Boise with Mom for a funeral. Mom asked if I had heard about the recent events in Coeur d’Alene with the University of Utah women’s basketball team. I had not. Apparently, there were one or more vehicles racing up and down Sherman Avenue with occupants shouting racial slurs at the group of players, which included a few Black women. These people were simply enjoying beautiful downtown Coeur d’Alene, or at least, were trying to.

Growing up in Coeur d’Alene, I remember the Aryan Nations and Richard Butler, and how hard it was to get that stain gone from the community. It took a long time and a stroke of luck here and there. And once they were mostly gone, I was happy. My friends and neighbors were happy. Because we weren’t racists. Because we think all Americans deserve to live in peace, regardless of their race. As a wiser man than myself used to say, “Never hate in the plural.” Meaning, you can’t base an entire race on one person’s actions.

It took me aback though. The Civil Rights movement made such huge gains in the 1960s, and now, 55 years later, we’re still fighting the same fight.

And why is that? In my opinion, fear. There is nothing scarier to a bunch of scared white men without the capacity to critically think than something different. Those people are different, they must be wrong, let’s persecute them and tell them they’re worthless so we can feel better about ourselves. This is the mindset of someone who still perpetuates the misguided belief that white people are superior to all others.

I have heard that these people racing up and down Sherman – possibly with Confederate flags flying – have been doing this for some time. As I’ve lived in Spokane for a number of years, I can’t say. What I can say is, for me, this is not acceptable. The Coeur d’Alene community should not find this acceptable. If this has been happening frequently, why haven’t people been standing up and saying, “No! Not in my town!” It’s no different than domestic terrorism. See something, say something. Take a stand, unless you think hating people based on color is an OK thing.

I don’t want to see North Idaho return to the days when members of a violent offshoot of the Aryan Nations bombed four buildings in the area. Yes, bombings. Bombings of those who refused to bow down to the neo-Nazi thought pattern. Four people were arrested and pleaded guilty to the bombings or related crimes.

Maybe looking back at those atrocities will remind the Coeur d’Alene population that it’s not just a few people who don’t like outsiders. It’s not just a few people with different ideas. It’s not people just being overly patriotic. It’s people who hate anyone other than themselves or like-minded individuals. Sick people, who haven’t figured out how to play nicely with their fellow humans. People who hate in the plural for no good reason other than fear of their own inadequacies.

Most importantly, I want anyone of any race to be able to walk down a main street in Coeur d’ Alene and not feel fear of being themselves. I want all my friends – Muslim, Mexican or anything else – to be able to walk down Sherman Avenue and not have someone harass them. And I damn sure want a basketball team being hosted in Coeur d’Alene with some Black players, to be able to go down, enjoy themselves and have a bite to eat without being persecuted.

To the racists reading this, I assure you, I am as pasty white as any of you. I grew up hunting and fishing in this area; yet I can still accept people of different cultures, shades and views. Grow a brainstem and stop ruining North Idaho. For the rest of you still trying to rationalize this racist activity, stop it. Take some pride in your area and stand up to racist people and thoughts. Don’t stick your head in the sand.

Matt Albertson grew up in Coeur d’Alene and was in the first class through the then new Lake City High School. He graduated from Northern Arizona University in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in advertising. He’s lived in Spokane since 2008 and manages an auto repair shop in Spokane Valley.