Idaho Human Rights Education Center Executive Director Amy Herzfeld said. "If you witness an incident and can do it safely, challenge it. Then report it to the proper authorities." **
BY Tim Woodward - email@example.com
The voice mail said it all."You were surprised?" Then, laughter.
It was one of many responses to a May 14 column in which I expressed surprise at the notion that Boiseans are intolerant of ethnic diversity.
Now I know how naive that sounded to the victims of intolerance. The responses paint a disturbing picture of my hometown, a place I used to think I knew well.
The column was specifically about a Japanese American who had been a target of ugly remarks. But if my e-mails are an indication, there are Boiseans who direct their provincialism at just about anybody different from the white majority.
One e-mail was from a woman who moved here five years ago with a friend who is Hispanic.
"We have walked out of restaurants because they would not serve us," she wrote. "He has been told by employers that they could not use him because the clients would not tolerate someone who is not Caucasian. Neighbors will not speak to us, and people stare constantly."
Is Boise xenophobic? And if so, is it a recent phenomenon or has it always been that way?
Cherie Buckner-Webb, a fourth-generation Idahoan and president of the Idaho Black History Museum, says racism always has been a problem for minorities here.
"I don't know if it's worse now, but it's bad," she said. "One thing that surprises me is that people seem more comfortable to be overt with it now. It used to be if people were bigoted they'd say things behind your back. Now they're more open."
**Note there is no reference to violent or criminal activity, but verbal or expressive, of which Ms. Herzfeld says ought to be reported to the "proper authorities."
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