Dear editor,

With all the division in this country I’ve been inspired by the many new initiatives in Marathon County to foster a more inclusive community.

Recently though, a new group has popped up and is organizing in coordination with the local Tea Party, to vocally push back on inclusion and diversity initiatives, like the recent educational sessions (Marathon) County Board members participated in addressing diversity and implicit bias among other things.

Per this new group’s statements on social media, the group feels it is a waste of taxpayer money to invest in these learning opportunities claiming the training isn’t needed here as there is no racism in Marathon County. The group claims diversity training will only cause more racism. In a separate statement on the Tea party FB page, one of their calls to action is to reject recruiting minorities for local positions because it takes jobs away from local (white people) who are equally qualified. 

Last week there were a number of peaceful protests in Wausau after the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha. Protesters, mostly young adults, many of them people of color, endured a steady barrage of racial slurs and gestures of hate from local residents driving and walking by, not to mention the several online threats and comments directed at protestors under local news articles and group protest organizing pages.

It seems the biggest trigger for this new group, “Get Involved Wisconsin,” is the issue they have with the term “white privilege.” Instead of recognizing this term as a way to understand the social construct of racism in this country, they see it as a personal affront. This reaction is the very definition of privilege. While I recognize that the members of this group may never acknowledge that racism is alive and well here in Marathon County, their very existence is evidence that it does. I also submit that the turnout in Wausau for the George Floyd March in June is also evidence of community support for change.

For all of you who say you want racism to end, now is the time to use the privilege and influence you have as white people to stand up for people of color in our communities and push back on groups like this who incite division and who are only fanning the flames of racism. We may not silence these groups but together in a united voice we can show communities of color that we outnumber those who deny racism exists here, that we have their backs and that we will continue to work to ensure Marathon County is a safe and inclusive community.

Christine Salm of Wausau

Editor’s note: Wausau Pilot & Review gladly publishes commentary from readers, residents and candidates for local offices. The views of readers and columnists are independent of this newspaper and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wausau Pilot & Review. To submit, email or mail to 500 N. Third St., Suite 208-8, Wausau, Wis. 54403.