Recently, Bonner County Human Rights Task Force asked 4 questions of the Candidates for Mayor and City Council. Each question and answer is a blog entry.
1. All: The mission of the Bonner County Human Right Task Force (BCHRTF) is
to affirm the American principles and ideals of the inviolable dignity and
worth of each human being. Who do you think experiences the most
discrimination in our community? Is it discrimination based upon race,
ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic status
or disability (including mental illness)?
I believe persons with disabilities (including mental illness) are probably the most discriminated against, mostly through lack of infrastructure to accommodate them. The city has gotten better in recent years, designing infrastructure to be inclusive, but there is a long way to go. I learned this first hand when my Mom became physically disabled last Fall, and we encountered difficulty getting her around town safely.
I personally have felt discriminated against by some in our community for their perceived ideas about my spirituality and political leanings. Most of their assumptions have been incorrect. However, I choose to take the high road and do not reciprocate. Our country is founded on Equal Justice and Liberty for ALL. I stand by that and swear an oath to uphold it. Discrimination has no place in a Just society.
In the diverse fabric of Sandpoint, it's difficult to pinpoint one group that experiences the most discrimination, as biases can be covert and systemic. However, from observations and conversations, there appear to be concerning levels of discrimination based on socio-economic status and, to some extent, race and ethnicity. While we may not have significant racial or ethnic diversity, it's paramount that everyone, irrespective of background, feels valued and protected in Sandpoint. Mental health stigmas also persist, making it crucial for us to further conversations about mental wellness and ensuring that individuals with mental health challenges are treated with the compassion and respect they deserve. If I could pick one thing to raise public awareness and help change our attitudes toward, it would be mental health
Based on my experiences in the community, I would say “sexual orientation/gender identity,” and “race/ethnicity,” would be the more obvious recipients of discrimination. A friend of mine was part of the knitting group who yarn bombed the tree in town using a rainbow pattern, merely representing artistic license. It appeared that someone didn’t like the inadvertent political message, so they cut the yarn off the tree and placed it in the dumpster. Then in 2023 Governor Little signed into law, H163, S1100, and S1016 discriminating against the LGBTQ+ population. This propelled many of our community to write letters to our legislators opposing these actions. As for race, and perhaps ethnicity included, myself and a few neighbors were alerted to signs attached to light poles at city beach early one morning saying “White Unity Now,” and “It’s Ok to be White.” We had armed ourselves with markers, paint, etc., and headed to the beach, but the signs had already been painted over, probably by city workers notified of the vandalism. I would also say the day Sandpoint had a self appointed militia to “ protect” us from imagined Antifa protesters heading our way was a display of discrimination as well. Prejudices are also shared through flag flying and banners on trucks and in yards. Examples I have unfortunately seen are “I identify as antiBindenary” and “Black Lab Lives Matter” to share a couple. As I ponder this question, I now see income inequity, lack of affordable housing and related lack of healthcare as a less obvious discrimination of socio-economic status. I wonder if the least obvious form of discrimination may be most harmful!?
I believe that people with physical handicaps or disabilities face the most discrimination, typically in the form of mobility throughout town.
Deb Fragoso Ruehle:
Unfortunately I don't have a good answer for this question as I don't fall into any discriminatory category beyond being a women. I can share the experience of my son who is biracial and has been discriminated against. Given the area and climate we live in today I know all of these groups are discriminated against I have witnessed this.
Currently I feel low wage earners are experiencing the most discrimination. To me, it seems the programs, housing etc are all directed towards the middle and upper income individuals. Yes, I know we need housing for those who are nurses, teachers, etc., but who represents those who don’t have a voice. Socio-economic status should not hinder individuals from housing needs. I have experienced this kind of discrimination in my lifetime as a single parent struggling and working two and three jobs. We need to think of all the citizens in the community. As Mayor this will be one of the most important accomplishments I can have is to create housing for all needs.
(Who do you think experiences the most discrimination in our community)? Socio-economic status.