Uphold the Welcome, Family Atmosphere, and Diversity of the Wayne County Fair

By

April 14, 2016

Most people will agree that life is sacred! No other time of the Christian year is this more central to our worship than the Easter Season. This most basic human principle is not only a reality for Christians, but is one we share with the many religions of the world as well as people for whom religion is not a part of their lives. Given this shared value, all peoples' rights are protected by The Universal Declaration of Human Rights which sets forth a common standard of fundamental human rights to be universally protected for all peoples and all nations, and yes, even here in Wooster, Ohio!

To work for these basic rights of all people is not easy. Internationally we have big "watch dogs" and passionate human rights organizations shedding light on these infringements while galvanizing for change. Locally, and especially in smaller communities, where I once heard some of the most aberrant human rights violations take place, these infringements can be difficult to address as they are masked as "innocent," described with the word "just," and sometimes seen as a way of life. The reality is that there is nothing "innocent," "just" or "life creating" about these acts of prejudice as they are the building blocks of abhorrent human rights abuses.

If we are honest we have to admit that we all have heard and seen the obvious bigotry: letters to the editor of the Daily Record, black and brown students at The College of Wooster accosted by passersby with the "N" word as they innocently walk down Beall Avenue, a pickup truck flying not only one but numerous Confederate Flags driving through our town, and rumors that the KKK is alive and well in our community. Now one might argue, and I agree, that these are isolated incidences, but then there are the more subtle building blocks of systematic racism: the lack of black or brown teachers for the Wooster School District (we don't have a single classroom teacher of different ethnicity in our middle and high schools)and the lack of diversity and awareness in the leadership structures of our town and some of our community organizations. Here again I will agree with many that these issues are not only limited to race, as they are socioeconomic in nature as well, as is clearly visible in the discussion surrounding affordable housing in Wooster, the handling of the so-called "Tent City", treatment of the residents at the Larwill Mobile Home Park, and most recently the debate surrounding the Wooster Lofts proposal that passed with the thinnest of margins (4-3) at our City Council Meeting Monday, April 4th.

Personally I believe that the Wayne County Fair's decision in January of this year to allow the sale and display of confederate flags and related merchandise is one of those obvious "building blocks" of prejudice, racism, and white supremacy, which the flag represents, and has the potential to lead to abhorrent human rights abuses. This deplorable decision reflects a lack of concern for African Americans for whom the flag "represents a deeply shameful period for our nation, and the harmful, hateful effects of that time are still felt today by African Americans and the nation as a whole" (taken from a letter from the Wooster/Orrville NAACP to the Wayne County Fair Board dated September 1, 2015) .

As a congregation we are not silent and continue to help build a coalition of individuals and community partners who speak out for the dignity of African American people and say "No" to a flag that says they are inferior to whites. This coming Monday night, April 18 at 7:45 pm we will need you in numbers as we once again stand before the Wayne County Fair Board in asking them to uphold the welcome, family atmosphere, and diversity of the Wayne County Fair by prohibiting the sale or display of confederate flags and/or confederate flag merchandise by vendors. We will do well to take to heart the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who stated, "We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people."

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Very well said. Proud to have you as a friend, Dries!
Dick Beery at 11:45pm EDT - April 16, 2016
Thank you Dick, most of all for your willingness to support and speak out for a more just and fair society!
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