Racism in a Small Conservative Town

I live in a small, conservative town, a place I’ve lived in for 20 years. It’s near the town that my great-great-great-grandfather founded in the late 1880s. I knew it was a conservative Christian town when I moved here with 42 churches and one tavern. My neighborhood had 350 families; now, we have 800. Most people here were staunch Republicans. Even the newspaper editor believed that only Christians lived here, and I had to show him that we also have Jews, Muslims, Pagans, and Atheists. As a Jew himself, he had no idea because only Christians paid to have articles and ads put in the paper.

In the 20 years, I’ve lived here, more and more people have moved to the area, and many of those are liberal Democrats who are non-Christians, which just forced the conservative Christian Republicans to dig in deeper.

So it was a pleasant surprise to see that the majority of residents voted for Joe Biden and not Donald Trump. And a thrill to see so many support Black Lives Matter.

Recently it came out that the new owner of a popular restaurant in town was both racist and sexist. And he and some of his employees and customers verbally attacked an immigrant family who owns another restaurant. I’ve eaten at both places, the first when it was owned by someone else. The former owner’s daughter is pretty upset that this new owner is dragging down her mother’s legacy.

An employee and customer came out and…

“He said the man called them “immigrants,” “telling us we’re in America now so we have to ‘follow his words,'” and “get out of his country and come back when we are citizens (which we are).”
He added the man made fun of his father’s accent, told him to speak English, and uttered more racial comments.”

“Former Blondie’s workers including former Chef Carlos Osorio and many community members sick of Armstrong’s unapologetically bigoted behavior, called for a boycott and protest in the spirit of Juneteenth and the ongoing struggle against racism and all forms of oppression.

In the days leading up to the June 19 protest and speakout, Armstrong and some of his employees tried to go on the offensive to claim that the triggering incident was “just a conflict over a parking space” and that a video they had of the parking lot incident would prove that the Liberation News story was incorrect. Calls were made to the editor of Liberation News but when challenged to produce the video, the employee refused.

Later, a video was sent to former Blondie’s chef Osorio; this video only showed part of the incident and failed to disprove the victimized family’s narrative which had been verified by eyewitnesses. Osorio has since obtained an additional version of the video that shows the harassers expressing racist, anti-immigrant views and bystanders calling them out.
In any event, as Osorio said at the rally, the incident in the parking lot was only the latest outrage committed by Armstrong and was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” All over social media, people began sharing screen shots and posting proof of Armstrong’s gross behavior. From racist comments about Asians to extremely sexist ones, these posts enraged and inspired this community to speak up and say out loud that they have had enough.”

“… several former Blondie’s workers who bravely shared their testimony about the racist and sexist working conditions at the restaurant after Armstrong took over the ownership. One of the speakers was the daughter of the former owner of Blondie’s who gave an emotional talk with tears in her eyes about how the restaurant, once a place she and others were proud to work in and the community loved, was reduced to a place where she would be sexually harassed and not be protected by her employers. After telling manager Claire Tulevech about the unwanted advances and inappropriate behavior, she was called a sexist slur for complaining and like a previous employee that quit due to unwanted sexual advances, she too would be a “p—y” for quitting.

It doesn’t help that the town’s mayor is a QAnon supporter who saw nothing wrong with wearing a teeshirt with this message:

“This is the USA. We Eat Meat. We Drink Beer. We Own Guns. We Speak English. We Love Freedom. If You Do Not Like That Get The Fuck Out.”

I guess Armacost believed that only gun-toting, beer-guzzling Christian Republicans are Americans. And he is wrong with all of it.

I suspect his version of “freedom” is much different than mine. I don’t own a gun. I don’t drink beer. While I do speak English, I am also learning French and Japanese, and I only eat meat occasionally. And this is my home too… I shouldn’t have to “get the fuck out” simply because you disagree with my views.

Editorials in the local newspaper state that he has the right to his opinion, and as a private citizen, that would be true. But he is also an elected official that is supposed to support the entire town, not just those who agree with his politics. Instead, he followed the lead of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell.

The mayor didn’t support the rights of people to have a protest rally against the racist owner of the one restaurant. Sequim Protests Against Racism, Etc., (SPARE) organized a protest called the Juneteenth Protest Against Racism and Hate. One hundred fifty people of African American, Latino, Native American, Asian American, and white racial diversity gathered at the main intersection in Sequim.

“It was a completely peaceful, non-violent event greeted by hundreds of motorists honking their car horns, waving, and giving thumbs up salutes. A couple of gas-guzzling pickups with American flags stopped at the traffic light. The grim-faced drivers revved their engines. The crowd answered with a chant: “Black Lives Matter! Black Lives Matter!””

Their attempt at intimidation didn’t work.

“There was concern that the right wing might provoke violence. Organizers contacted the Sequim Police. Chief Sheri Crain and another officer arrived, and Crain spoke at length with vigil organizer Courtney Thomas. As expected, the police presence discouraged the racist provocateurs, who stayed in their pickups.”

“Noteworthy was the number of progressive candidates present, including Rachel Andersen, a member of the Sequim City Council, who is running for re-election in the November 2 election. Other candidates for the Sequim City Council also attended: Vicki Lowe, a descendant of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe on one side of her family, and pioneer settlers on the other side. Lowe is the Executive Director of the American Indian Health Commission for Washington State. She was recently named by Gov. Jay Inslee to the State Women’s Commission.

The other candidate is Lowell Rathbun, another progressive Democrat running to reverse the QAnon domination of the Sequim City government. Also present were Sequim School Board member Jim Stoffer, and Bruce Cowan, leader of the 24th Legislative District Democrats, who drove over from his home in Port Townsend.”

This might work to divide the town further, still illustrates that at least we now have a liberal faction at all. Twenty years ago, everyone assumed that all residents were conservative Republicans and Christians, and they are not at all pleased that there are now citizens who challenge that attitude.


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