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OPINION: Condemn racism and build a better future for Kootenai County

by EVAN KOCH/More Perfect Union
| March 27, 2024 1:00 AM

As Chair of the Kootenai County Democratic Central Committee, I am deeply troubled by recent events surrounding the NCAA Women's Basketball tournament held in Spokane. The fact that teams competing in the tournament felt compelled to change hotels from Coeur d'Alene to Spokane due to racism directed at them is not just a stain on our community, but a reminder of the work we still have ahead of us in combating bigotry and intolerance.

North Idaho has a complicated history, one that we must confront head-on. The presence of the Aryan Nations compound in our county serves as a stark reminder of the deep-seated racism and hate that has plagued our region in the past. While we have made strides in moving beyond this dark chapter, recent events serve as a sobering reminder that the work of building an inclusive and equitable community is far from over.

At the heart of the Democratic Party's values lie principles of inclusion, diversity and equity. These are not just buzzwords for us; they are guiding principles that inform our actions and shape our vision for a better future. We believe that diversity is our strength and that by celebrating the uniqueness of every individual, we can create a society where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

However, we cannot achieve this vision alone. It is incumbent upon all members of our community, regardless of their political affiliation, to do their part in ending the culture wars that perpetuate hateful actions and rhetoric. Unfortunately, there are those within our midst who continue to sow division and hatred for their own political gain.

I am referring specifically to the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee and the Idaho Freedom Foundation, both chaired by Brent Regan. These organizations have not only employed individuals with known ties to anti-Semitism and white nationalism but have actively endorsed and supported their actions. The hiring of Dave Reilly, who has a history of promoting hateful and divisive rhetoric, is particularly concerning. Despite calls for accountability, Brent Regan has refused to condemn Dave Reilly's actions, choosing instead to double down on his support.

We cannot allow this behavior to go unchecked. We must hold our elected officials and community leaders accountable for their actions and demand better. We cannot claim to be a community that values diversity and inclusion while simultaneously turning a blind eye to those who seek to divide us.

But despite these challenges, I remain hopeful. I believe that we have the power to create a better future for ourselves and future generations. We have the opportunity to rewrite the narrative of our past and build a community that reflects the values of inclusivity, equality and respect for all.

As we move forward, let us remember that change begins with each and every one of us. Let us reject hate and bigotry in all its forms and work together to create a community where everyone feels welcome and valued. And most importantly, let us exercise our right to vote for the better future that we know is possible.

Together, we can build a brighter tomorrow for Kootenai County.

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Evan Koch is chairman of Kootenai County Democrats.