Commentary: Willmar needs more love and understanding, not hate and division
By Shafia Abdullahi, Hamdi Kosar, Abidweli Yusuf, Abdirahman Ahmed, Ben Larson, Maria Larson, Christina Nelson and Nate Erickson
In the face of blatant bigotry exhibited by a Willmar City Councilmember, the people of Willmar have persevered and insisted that the city deserves better leadership.
Those who are targeted by or don't share these bigoted views haven't always known the best way to respond. For most of us being a good community member looks like normal everyday life.
Instead of division and hate, the majority of us live side by side trying to earn a living, sharing parks and educating our children. Most people in Willmar treat one another with kindness and respect. We value family and fairness.
What Willmar is asking for is leadership that truly reflects the community we live in and the neighbors we care about.
We encourage all to go back and watch the recent city council meetings to see new leadership stepping up.
We encourage you to go back and read the actual wording of the Facebook posts that Councilmember Christianson liked. These were not pages that anyone can follow, they were not accidentally liked, they were specific posts with specific hate filled ideas.
Listen to the words of the people defending Councilmember Christianson. His silence and minimization means that he continues to stand by these words.
We cannot be afraid to speak up and call it what it is. It is hateful. It is unfair. From a faith perspective it is bearing false witness against our neighbors.
The calls for accountability will not stop. If you want a role in Willmar leadership, especially government leadership, you must represent all residents of Willmar. You must fully commit yourself to the people and future of this community.
Councilmember Christianson may not fully comprehend the hurt and damage he has caused to the city and its people, but we as people of good conscious cannot allow his lack of willingness to learn and grow set the template for the city. Willmar, as a community, must continue having conversations about race, religion and liberty for all.
Community events are being held weekly. A "Welcoming Resolution" has been introduced to the council. The true heart of Willmar is being made known. Individuals and groups of all backgrounds have stepped up to the table.
We can no longer allow people who practice hate, division, fear and prejudice to make decisions for us, our friends or our families. It hurts our community.
We move forward by taking the following steps. The "Welcoming Resolution" is a great start and all are encouraged to attend the next council meeting to stand behind this resolution.
Second, the city should create a Social Media Policy that would give guidance on how elected officials are expected to conduct themselves in public forums such as social media.
Third, we must continue having tough, but important discussions around race, religion and how to respond to racism in our community. Invite people to coffee or tea; break bread with your neighbors. We must use this time as an opportunity for our community to grow and become stronger.
Because Councilmember Christianson has refused to acknowledge that members of his own ward have been damaged by his actions, and because he has not apologized or in any way distanced himself from the demeaning language in the posts or the words spoken at council by people claiming to support him; we believe it is impossible at this time for him to be an effective government representative in Willmar or the Kandiyohi County area at large.
All living things change. We are grateful for such a vibrant life-filled community. There is nothing so joyful as seeing the community come together to make this a better place for everyone.