Monday, April 22, 2024

OPINION: Group condemns extremist 'culture of permission'

| April 3, 2024 1:00 AM

The racially motivated incident targeting basketball players visiting North Idaho for NCAA tournament games are a direct assault on the dignity and rights of individuals, risking their personal safety and also threatening the prosperity of Idaho’s future. Idaho has diligently worked to overcome our past reputation as racially intolerant in the wake of the Aryan Nations in the 1990s in North Idaho. The eradication of this extremist group marked a pivotal moment in Idaho’s history, signaling a collective rejection of hate and bigotry. 

Since then, communities across the state have engaged in numerous efforts to promote inclusivity, understanding and reconciliation. While the scars of the past may still linger, Idahoans have demonstrated resilience and determination in building a more inclusive and tolerant society, one that embraces the richness of its diverse population and stands united against discrimination in all its forms.

It would be irresponsible to not acknowledge the negative role, in events such as these, of organizations like the Idaho Freedom Foundation and Kootenai County Republican chairman Brent Regan. By supporting known white nationalists such as Dave Reilly and Vincent James Foxx, these entities have created an environment where individuals feel empowered to express and act upon their prejudices without repercussion. 

The Idaho Freedom Foundation’s former contracted employee Dave Reilly attempted to interfere and undermine a recent press conference hosted by the city of Coeur d’Alene condemning the event.

While freedom of speech is a fundamental right, it should never be exploited to propagate ideologies of intolerance, hatred and violence. These actions contribute to the normalization of hate and embolden individuals to engage in acts of violence and discrimination against marginalized communities.

When influential figures within our political landscape condone or even endorse extremist behavior, it sends a dangerous message that such actions are acceptable and permissible. This culture of permission can inspire individuals to engage in acts of hate and discrimination and undermines efforts like Idaho Leaders United’s to promote unity, diversity and mutual respect within our communities. 

It is incumbent upon us to challenge and condemn these harmful influences. Idahoans must work together toward a future where all Idahoans can live free from fear and discrimination.

Idaho Leaders United recently honored Coeur d’Alene Mayor Jim Hammond for his efforts to quell extremism, bigotry and hatred in Idaho. His steadfast commitment to fostering dialogue, promoting understanding and confronting intolerance serves as a strong example of leadership in our state. As we come together as leaders to condemn this appalling incident and the culture of permission that contributed to it, we recognize Mayor Hammond’s dedication to upholding the values of inclusivity and respect for all individuals. 

The incident in North Idaho is an unfortunate example of why organizations like Idaho Leaders United are necessary. We cannot be passive in the effort to eliminate hatred, bigotry and violence in our great state. Progress will mean actively asserting our condemnation of such actions and holding those responsible for peddling it, encouraging it and creating a culture of permission to act in abhorrent ways accountable. We must strongly reject and challenge ideologies that seek to undermine the principles of equality and justice upon which our society is built. We ask all Idahoans to join us in standing against extremism and promoting a culture of inclusivity, respect and understanding in our communities.

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The Idaho Leaders United leadership team includes Cortney Liddiard, Gary Raney, Bill Shawver, Odette Bolano, Doug Gross and Tommy Ahlquist.