Life in the Inland Empire

The Inland Northwest, which includes eastern Washington and northern Idaho, is known more because of stories about Ruby Ridge and the Neo-Nazi headquarters in Hayden Lake, Idaho, than for its wooded tranquility. The recent relocation to Sandpoint, Idaho, of former Los Angeles police officer Mark Fuhrman-whose racist statements were revealed during last year's O.J. Simpson trial-hasn't helped this racially intolerant image any.

Editors of the San Jose Mercury opted against sending an African-American photographer to Sandpoint because they feared for his safety, reported the Inlander newspaper.


But residents are fighting back. Not only do they feel misrepresented, they fear such publicity will encourage bigots to move into the area. Sandpoint High School has started a Human Rights Task Force offering tolerance workshops, including showings of Schindler's List and an "Art for Tolerance" contest in which 140 students participated. The Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, Washington, has representatives from almost every high school through its program, Youth for World Awareness.


While the region has a low minority population, the number of white supremacists is also smaller than media depicts. The counter-image to this portrayal is seen in events like the area's Barter Fairs, where visitors find organic vegetables, art, drum circles, and "breakfast burritos"-the produce of a Northwest culture that seldom makes sensational news.


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Sojourners Magazine March-April 1996
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