Learning that Keizer was the site of a hate crime earlier this year will likely come as a surprise to some, others were probably waiting for it to happen, still others might offer to pay court costs for the assailant.

None of those responses is acceptable.

In February, a Hispanic man was punched in the face by a neighbor while standing outside his apartment and waiting for his son so they could go to work. The victim’s offense? His assailant believed he was in the United States illegally.

We do not know the legal status of the victim, but it doesn’t matter. One act of this kind is one too many, and every resident should be confronting the harmful stereotypes and prejudices that result in physical violence at every opportunity.

Hate for others is not something we are born with, but neither is love. Both must be carefully taught. The lessons – both helpful and harmful – are fused into our being through daily interactions with others. But when we choose to self-segregate for reasons of race, creed, sexual identity, or national origin, we cut ourselves off from the essential thing that helps us grow.

The hate crime that took place in Keizer is an example of how ignorance, propaganda, and segregation can forge hatred that erupts in moments of violence. In all likelihood, the accused man is not a member of a hate group but someone worn down by time and toil into thinking he is losing something that, in fact, never belonged solely to him.

Stemming the tide of such hate will not occur overnight and it’s going to take all of us to do it. Working to be less biased and less prejudicial in our thoughts is where it starts. Applying those practices to our interactions with others in the community is the next step. But, some of the most significant changes must occur at the institutional level through changing laws and workplace policies. It is here where the City of Keizer needs to step up.

A request for the city to adopt an inclusivity resolution – a statement declaring the city a safe and welcoming space for everyone regardless or race, creed, national origin, gender identity, and sexual identity – has languished at the city council for more than a year. Opponents to the notion wasted little time in voicing their concerns about providing cover for undocumented residents, but there can be no exceptions. There will never be a better time for the council to act on this request and waiting only prolongs the environment where hate festers.

Unfortunately, that is not the only stumbling block for Keizer. In 1993, residents of the city voted to revise the city charter to marginalize those whose sexual identity doesn’t conform to traditional Christian values. Doing so was wrong in 1993 and the longer the language remains part of the city’s founding documents, the worse it makes the city look. It will require another vote of residents to change it, but the cost is minimal in relation to the quiet harm being done to LGBTQ+ residents.

The people of this country have proven time and again that we can remake ourselves into something better. But it’s on all of us to educate ignorance out of ourselves and our children, reach out to those who live on the edges of society and disrupt hateful ideologies when opportunities arise.

To live in any community as an accepted part of it is a privilege, but it comes with the responsibility to stand up for the most vulnerable.

– Editorial Board