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A year after the Anne Frank memorial vandalism, where do we stand on human rights in Idaho?

Is Idaho too great for hate? Leaders say it is

The community gathered on Thursday at the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial to reaffirm that the community is united in disavowing hate. This comes after vandalism incidents at the memorial that badly damaged stone tablets and other parts of
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The community gathered on Thursday at the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial to reaffirm that the community is united in disavowing hate. This comes after vandalism incidents at the memorial that badly damaged stone tablets and other parts of

One year ago, under the cover of dark, hate walked into the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial.

It came in the form of words scrawled into the stone – words that were both vicious and vile. And we were being asked by the national media, “Is this what it means to live in Boise?”

Our response never wavered. “Do not assume that the act of an individual(s) is us; the community’s response is who we are.”

So, who are we?

Following the vandalism, Boise Police Chief Bill Bones told the Idaho Statesman that the attacks were being treated as a hate crime. “There’s an obligation to call this what it is. It’s a cowardly act. It’s a criminal act,” he said. “The words that they wrote are obviously attacks against people that live in this community simply based on the religion they practice or the color of their skin.”

"It's a cowardly act. It's a criminal act." Boise Police Chief Bill Bones said crimes like the defacing of tablets at Boise's Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial are rare but harmful.

We are a community whose elected leaders stood together in the Memorial to denounce hate — it has no place in Idaho. When Idaho Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, asked her fellow lawmakers to speak out after the attacks, several senators and representatives of both parties joined her and signed their names to a bipartisan statement condemning the vandalism.

Then joined Buckner-Webb when she told a crowd, “This is who we are; we stand up, we speak out, we don’t tolerate hate. … And this memorial, which is an outward, tangible manifestation of what’s in our hearts and souls, gives me courage.”

It’s true. There is a reason why Boise is home to one of the few human rights memorials in the United States. I only wish the Idaho Legislature had the courage to respond to the senator’s plea and “Add the Words.” Otherwise, their continued denial should also be called out – as an act of discrimination.

Placed in the Congressional Record by Sen. Mike Crapo, “I commend Idahoans and specifically the Boise community for coming together so quickly to fight hate speech…Kindness, support, and respect run deep in Idaho.”

It’s true. Out-of-state visitors to the Memorial often comment that the community is friendly and welcoming. I only wish it ran so deeply that kindness and support could be extended to every member of our human family – including the 62,000 Idahoans who lack the security of healthcare through Medicaid expansion and all those who have yet to be treated as equal under the law.

We are a community that used an act of hate in the Memorial as a teachable moment to talk about why the words we choose and use matter – and the offending words were removed.

"It emboldens us. It means our work is not done," the executive director of the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights told the Idaho Statesman.

However, they are still out there - when a racist slur appeared in the snow on the roof of a storage shed at the Black History Museum, when Nazi symbols and a bigoted message was drawn in chalk outside a Boise restaurant, and when a letter filled with racial slurs was left on the car of a soccer coach.

After each occurrence, each act of hate, the community’s response has shown who we are. And the Memorial embodies that shared value: “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” (Confucius)

While some of the Memorial repairs have yet to be completed and the construction of the Marilyn Shuler Classroom for Human Rights has just begun, the year has given us pause to reflect on what truly defines our community and state.

After a confrontation with hate, let’s now engage in conversations of hope and action that extend compassion, acceptance, respect and empathy to all who call Idaho home.

Dan Prinzing is executive director of the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights.
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