Who is my neighbor?

To the editor:

Thank you Chief Art Mabry!! Thursday, Dec.1, on your night off, you sat there for hours listening to the AIM fellows, to American Indian people ? as midnight approached you did not fidget, you did not look at your watch, you paid attention. Thank you for listening!! Racism is a tough challenge!

I, a full-blooded white woman, write this because I want to support the courage and respect this appointed official showed for folks of all ethnic backgrounds in the Vermillion community, especially our American Indian neighbors. Please, let us in the Vermillion community support our leaders so that they can, with our help and in our name, ferret out the racism in our institutions, organizations and our city of Vermillion.

Why do racist behaviors keep happening here in this community we all value? We all have biases. Maybe the best we can do is become aware of them so that we can make better decisions and be better neighbors.

Minute to minute, we can choose how we relate to those biases we are aware of. This power of choice gives us freedom, and it would be crazy not to take advantage of it.

On the other hand, when habitual reactions are strong and long-standing, it is difficult to choose intelligently. Some biases are so deeply engrained within us that we are unaware of them. We don't intentionally choose bias; we just do what's familiar, which isn't always the best idea.

Familiarity gives us something to hold on to. Our familiar biases set off a predictable chain reaction that we may find subconsciously irresistible. This insight can be helpful.

We like what feels comfortable and what we are used to. When we don't realize that we take some things so much for granted that we are no longer aware of biased attitudes in ourselves, much less how they impact other folks, we become enslaved to ignorance.

Feeling upset with "them," for example, can make us feel strong and in charge. Hatred makes us feel even more powerful and invulnerable. Craving and wanting can feel soothing, romantic, and nostalgic: we weep over lost loves or unfulfilled dreams. It is painfully and deliciously bittersweet. So, we don't even consider interrupting the flow.

When we realize that we like our biases, we begin to understand why they have such power over us.

Ignorance is oddly comforting: we don't have to do anything; we just lay back and don't relate to what is happening around us; unaware of how we unintentionally injure some of our neighbors. Each of us has our own personal way of welcoming and encouraging our biases. Becoming aware of this is the first and crucial step to empowering ourselves to make better choices.

What incorrect information do we subconsciously have that shows up in behaviors distressing to our American Indian neighbors? Change always brings with it a measure of discomfort. Can we have the courage to tolerate discomfort in order to grow together as neighbors? Could we be affected by bias that distorts perception of facial cues so important to effective communication and perpetuates stereotypes?

I challenge each of my beloved neighbors to expose ourselves to a simple word categorization test designed to measure implicit racial bias. Explore Your Hidden Biases at http://www.tolerance.org/hidden_bias/ or Measure Your Implicit Attitudes at https://implicit.har

vard.edu/implicit/demo/selectatest.html .

Try a www.google.com search with the terms implicit bias or simply whiteness! You might be surprised!!

Bless the Whole Neighborhood, Every One � No Exceptions!!

Catherine Alexandra,


Pray for service members

To the editor and fellow South Dakotans:

I've been following the tragic losses of our fine young servicemen who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq this past week. My condolences go out to the grieving family and friends of those outstanding, dedicated soldiers, and especially to all the soldiers in Battery C, 1-147th FA. I hope you can find peace in knowing that they died to protect and guarantee our freedom and security.

When we take the oath of service to the United States by joining the military, every one of us is fully aware of the sacrifices and challenges that await us, for a career of service to our country does not come easy. These men represent America's finest, and are the heroes that future generations will look up to and remember.

Their brothers and sisters in arms will not let their legacy die, and all veterans of the past and present will cherish the memory of all of those who have given their lives for our freedom. Please continue to support and pray for those thousands of service members who are away from their families this holiday season.

This is my fifth Christmas overseas, and it never gets easier, but knowing that I have the support of everyone back home makes my job much easier, and more rewarding. My major lesson learned for 2005 was that you just never know what will happen tomorrow � when a phone call or knock on the door could change your life forever.

I ask each of you in 2006 to live your life to such an extent that the sacrifices these soldiers made was worth it, and make your freedom worth fighting for. Appreciate the small things, and turn your "somedays" into "nows." I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas, and a bright, hopeful New Year! Godspeed,

Captain Erica


Seoul, Korea

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