Tolerance is the answer, not hatred
There's been a lot of talk lately about hate speech, and the words we use.
That was this subject on the mind of Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway late last month, who spoke to a crowd of people from across the country about what happened after he was faced with derogatory comments about his city last year.
Speaking before the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., Callaway recalled the incident that made headlines back here at home, after someone referred to Hillsboro as "Hills-burrito" to Callaway while on a bus ride back from a Hillsboro Hops game last September.
Read our story from Sept. 7, 2018, about Mayor Steve Callaway's recollection of a difficult conversation with a stranger about racism and prejudice.
The unidentified man was surprised to learn the person he used this obviously racist epithet toward was, in fact, the city's mayor. Callaway said the man's characterization of Hillsboro was "offensive" and said he spoke to him about the city's diversity as a strength, not a weakness. He invited the man to come spend some time in his town and get to know it better.
Callaway's actions were admirable, and incidents like it seem to be a common occurance across the region.
Just last week, two other elected officials in Washington County had to take similar stands against intolerance. Tigard Mayor Jason Snider wrote in a letter to constituents that the city had received hateful responses after the city announced it was looking for a bilingual person to work at city hall.
"Why would you give a job to non-speaking English person instead of a citizen who needs a job and speaks English?" read a portion of an email the city received after posting the job opening. "Why not just move city offices to Mexico?"
Read The Times' story about Mayor Jason Snider's defense of Tigard's Spanish-language outreach efforts from Feb. 15, 2019.
That sentiment was one that Metro Councilor Juan Carlos Gonzalez was faced with on Feb. 13, after Gonzalez — who represents Hillsboro, Cornelius and Forest Grove for the regional agency — introduced himself in Spanish during a Metro Policy Advisory Committee meeting.
"You need to speak English here," a visitor yelled, according to Gonzalez.
Neither Snider, Callaway nor Gonzalez are taking these incidents lying down.
"I want to be perfectly clear," Snider wrote in his monthly letter to constituents this month, "that Tigard is a community for everyone. We will stand up to hurtful speech and reinforce our efforts to attract a workforce that is representative of our community and nation."
Gonzalez has said he plans to introduce himself at MPAC meetings from now on and said Metro would create codes of conduct to better equip Metro committees to intervene "in situations that violate our strategic plan to advance racial equity."
For centuries, Oregon has been largely monochromatic. Racist laws kept many minorities from moving here, or kept the ones who did come from advancing far in our society. We've spent decades trying to shift those longstanding policies.
Today, Hillsboro is one of Oregon's most diverse cities, in a county that is growing more diverse by the day. In Hillsboro, one quarter of the population is Latino. Its neighbor, Cornelius, has more Latino residents than Caucasian ones. In Washington County, one-third of residents are black, Asian, Latino and/or Native American.
Tolerance is something we all need to be reminded of, it seems.
People come from all over the world to experience what we have. Take a drive through Beaverton, Tigard, Hillsboro or Forest Grove and you'll find everything from halal meat markets and Vietnamese noodle houses to Puerto Rican eateries. We celebrate Latino culture each spring in downtown Hillsboro and host Native American powwows in our schools. Our cities and the county do outreach to those born in other countries and to people who speak languages other than English.
There is a long, long way to go. But we're trying.
And there are places where things are working well. In one neighborhood in Hillsboro, near Jackson Bottom Wetlands, you'll find neighbors from Hungary, Belgium, Nigeria, India, Mexico, South Korea, Canada, Sri Lanka, China and Barbados all living side by side. We are raising our children in a place where they can experience the world, not just through books, but through the very friends and neighbors we see every day.
We agree with Snider and Callaway: Being a culturally diverse community makes us stronger, not weaker. We should be able to accept that there are others in our community who speak a different language around the dinner table. They cook food with a few different spices, they attend a place of worship that is different from your own.
These things are what make our community great.
What draws many to Washington County are good schools, good businesses and good places to be.
What keeps us here are good people.
Let's all try to be the people we want our children to look up to.
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)