Two-Way Streets of Resentment

Tiesha became nervous as Ann and I took her trick or treating through Columbia Heights. "I hope they don't shoot you two!" she said. "Cause if they shoot you then I'll be left by myself, and then they might even shoot me too!"

"No one's going to do that Tiesha," I responded, trying to dissolve her kid fears.

"You just don't know," she replied shaking her head.

As I looked down at this picture-two white women walking with a black child-I was saddened by the perceptive 8-year-old whose concerns weren't childish but far too real for someone so young.

In the few months that I have lived in Columbia Heights and worked with Sojourners, I have been mugged at gunpoint, punched in the face, and harassed numerous times. Other Sojourners Community members have experienced similar assaults; in fact, we've estimated that about nine people in our congregation have been victims of muggings since August.

When I came to intern at Sojourners, I knew it would be more multiculturally and economically diverse than my overgrown white suburban home of Spokane, Washington. In a high school of 2,000 students, I recall about 15 Asians, two Latinos, one Native American, and five African Americans. I was never aware of any tension between us, and the first time I was aware that racism existed was at age 16. That was when I discovered that there were more races than blacks and whites. It was my impression that Asians, Latinos, and Native Americans were also "white."

That was about the time when Neo-Nazis formed a major headquarters in Hayden Lake, Idaho, an hour away. Even now with Mark Fuhrman, witness to the O.J. prosecution, moving into Sandpoint, Northwesterners are shocked at being associated with white supremacy. It seems I found more outright "bigots" in my trips to metropolitan areas like San Francisco.

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 1996
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