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Walking and running event started to break stereotypes

by David Cole
| April 26, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d’ALENE — A new event called Race for Equality gave people here Sunday the opportunity to run or walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes — or shirt in this particular case.

Those who registered for the event, conducted at Coeur d’Alene High School, wore a T-shirt with group identities such as “Jewish,” “Muslim,” “Latino,” “women,” “homeless” and “elder” written on them. With the shirts on, participants did laps around the school’s track.

“Literally, we’re bearing a group on our backs,” said Rachel Dolezal of the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d’Alene. Dolezal contributed to the creation of the event.

“It builds empathy,” Dolezal said.

About 300 people registered for it, which had music, food from Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill, and activities for kids. It ran from noon to 2 p.m.

Lewis-Clark State College social work students Matthew Campbell and Christa Jennings came up with the idea for the event. The students worked with Tanner Hilbish, a senior at the high school and member of the school’s human rights club, and Dolezal to pull it off.

“There’s a lot of energy in the people here today,” Dolezal said. “The people that I’ve talked to commented that it makes them feel supported. And it makes them feel like they are able to get out and do something tangible to show support as well.”

All proceeds from the event support the Human Rights Education Institute.

There were also vendors, such as the Disability Action Center NW, of Coeur d’Alene, at the event with information booths.

Campbell said, “Everybody knows about these issues that are happening here, but where are the outlets for trying to make change? Nobody really understands what they can do.”

Roughly a half-dozen members of the Aryan Nations protested outside the event Sunday.

Campbell said, “We can’t stop people from hating, but we can show our support for opposing it.”

Hilbish said the event is an opportunity to show the area’s diversity, and show that beliefs of white supremacist groups don’t represent those of the other people in North Idaho.

Jennings said the plan is to have the event every year, to continue opposing any type of discrimination.

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