Fergus Falls, I’m not calling you racist, but I am calling you to care more about and for your community of color.
My name is Nancy XiáoRong Valentine and I am the child of a white father and Chinese mother who immigrated to Fergus Falls in 1992 (yes, legally).
I was born at Lake Region Healthcare, raised blocks from downtown, educated through both the public and private school systems, and pursued higher education at a Minnesota university. Much like many of you, a main motivator for my choice to return to our region was family ties, however, I also made this decision because I have a strong conviction to use my time, talents and energy to make our community a better place to live for people whose skin color doesn’t match the majority.
Fergus Falls, I care about you, but it would be remiss of me to say that you’ve always cared about people with different colored skin like me. Throughout my upbringing I have both witnessed and been on the receiving end of unfair treatment and unkind acts that can only be attributed to race. Just a few examples: I’ve watched my mother get turned down for jobs she was qualified for, witnessed a black friend followed and wrongfully accused of stealing in a local business, and have had a total stranger walk up to me at a bar and tell me to “go back home, [insert racist expletive here].”
When the news of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis went viral, I was appalled, but I was not surprised. Racism is real. I hope you will open your eyes and hearts to recognizing that racism isn’t just in metro areas, but also very much so here in our very own community. I will acknowledge that there are many here that “treat everyone with respect, regardless of their skin color,” but it would be irresponsible to believe that is the case for everyone, all the time.
When we are commanded to “love thy neighbor as thyself,” I’ve often wondered in what ways I’m truly living this out? Which “neighbors” are you loving like you would, yourself? Are they just the neighbors that look and live like you? When a person of color shares grievances about unfair treatment, what is your first reaction? Would you listen to them as you would a daughter or close colleague? Or would you wonder to yourself (or out loud) “what they did first that would have caused someone else to treat them that way?” I urge you to be honest with yourself.
Fergus Falls is a vibrant community with so much to offer. Let’s take the steps to make this a great place to live for our black and brown neighbors, too.