A timely arrest

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

Quick work by Storm Lake Police in response to racist epithets scrawled on a Buena Vista University dorm room last weekend helped to prevent an ugly situation from escalating. The awful messages were posted on the door of an African American student who was among those who took a knee during the National Anthem during a Beaver football game. President Josh Merchant in his first semester on the job has been trying his best to elevate the discussion on campus and in the community, and then this happens.

We barely had time to type up the statement of distress at BVU before the police issued a press release that a 19-year-old man from Las Vegas, a student, was charged.

That’s amazingly fast police work. Buena Vista had just offered a reward for information leading to an arrest. Assistant Police Chief Chris Cole handled the case with utmost urgency and dispatched two detectives who did “good old-school police work.” They encouraged students to speak up because, as Cole said, evil only flourishes when good people do nothing. Before a certain sort of terror could spread, police had nipped it in the bud.

This tells us a few things:

Student and professional athletes took a knee not out of disrespect to anyone but out of a legitimate concern over police relations with minority communities. The realities that led them to that concern are not necessarily the same realities of Storm Lake. “We take hate crimes very seriously,” Cole said. “Nobody should ever have to suffer racism in any way. We want everyone to feel safe.”

The police take this position because the city council demands it and the department believes it. We should remind ourselves of that in Storm Lake. We should be proud of it.

It tells us that we should give room to civil protests, because most of us cannot know what it is to be black and under assault in your own home. Don’t threaten Buena Vista for letting students protest what you cannot understand.

President Merchant is doing everything he can to promote healthy dialogue about race and culture while trying to protect innocent students. The university immediately warned the campus and the community about the incident, and took every step it reasonably could to ensure student safety and assist in stopping this sort of behavior. Merchant is trying to use all these blow-ups as teaching moments as well he should. He deserves our support as he works through these difficult issues the likes of which Buena Vista has not quite seen. No doubt it is a learning process for everyone.

The main thing to know is that Buena Vista and Storm Lake are doing the hard work to stamp out racism as we can every day. It never ends.

 

IF ALABAMA CAN elect a Democrat to the US Senate the Fourth District of Iowa should be able to elect a reasonable person to the US House. The main argument against Roy Moore was not that his lurid behavior was disqualifying, it was that his election would reflect poorly on Alabama. That’s what Republican Sen. Richard Shelby said, and it was Senator-elect Doug Jones’ main argument. Steve King stands accused of no lurid behavior. But if you switched a Roy Moore and Steve King sound byte you might not know the difference but for the Southern twang. King is as embarrassing to Iowa as Moore is to Alabama.

Women, young people and African Americans banded together to defeat Roy Moore because of all the crazy things he said and did over the years. The stuff King says is every bit as outrageous but the Democratic Party has put up with it because if you can’t beat King you might as well just lie down. Alabama showed that you can cobble together a coalition of decency and tolerance even in the reddest of right-wing echo chambers. Democrats can win if they turn out.

Berkley Bedell did it. Tom Harkin won all over western Iowa. It can be done again with the right candidate with the pitch: Enough of the embarrassment of Iowa. We need a congressman who can get things done for rural places, not somebody who wants to pick a fight with a defenseless Latina. We are starting to see it for what it is and tire of it.

Or so we could hope.

The Steve King-Bannon approach was rejected in Virginia and was rejected again in Alabama. We can reject it here, too, and get a good and friendly congressman again like we used to have in Berk and Fred Grandy and Tom Latham. Someday the Republican Party will return to its senses. It did in Alabama, anyhow.