People across the world in the past week have been reading about a small town in Washington that united in order to assist a victim of racism in their community.
It all started with a few social media posts on Aug. 20. Tenino residents, including some involved with youth football and cheerleading, shared photographs of despicable damage that included “KKK” spray-painted across a home and vehicle, in addition to other hateful messages.
The incident could have represented the worst of humanity, lost and demented souls seeking to impose pain on those who are different from them. It could have been just another reminder that racism and bigotry still exist, no matter how much many would like to assume otherwise.
Instead, it became a reminder of another kind — good still holds the potential to triumph over evil if good people take action.
As word spread on social media, the story began to pick up steam, as well as volunteers.
Before long, dozens from throughout the Tenino area had descended on the home, united under the common goal of repairing the damage before the family could return to see it themselves.
“This — the people coming out to help clean up — this is my Tenino. Not the hate crap that was thrown up like bile. The community, the camaraderie, the working together to wipe out hate ... that’s what Tenino is about,” volunteer Marlena Mulkins wrote on Facebook.
In this age of connectivity, the story has found traction in media across the world.
On Monday, the story could be found on hundreds of websites and in dozens of newspapers of varying size and readership.
Publications to share the story included the Huffington Post, The Daily Mail and CNN, to name only a few.
Because of the community response, the incident didn’t become simply evidence of yet another hate crime. It became a reminder that, overall, we hold the potential to make one another stronger, not weaker, if we simply unite in opposition and action when racism rears its hideous head.
While there is something to be celebrated here, there is also the reality that individuals who live among us harbor such unjustified hatred that they’re willing to destroy and damage the property of people who have done nothing to them.
Let’s look to Tenino as an example of how to respond to racism, but let us never forget that such hatred continues to fester in the dark corners of our society.