When I read the letter in the News-Times from Jessica Miller (“Make Newport a community that welcomes all,” June 12 edition) detailing some examples of prejudice in local racial climate, I was inspired to share my own thoughts on the issue.
I moved to Lincoln County from Baltimore in 1978. My first exposure to local racial tensions came after a grave-robbing incident in Siletz. I could not believe the number of letters to the editor that were written in support of the robbers, referring to them as “artifact collectors,” as if they had some intrinsic right to dig on that land.
In 1988, my family moved back to Baltimore for a few years. I ended up driving across country with my four-year-old daughter. In the area of Dallas, Texas, I saw a 7-Eleven kind of place with gas pumps; we went in to use the restrooms. The crowded store was clearly on the black side of town. We were standing in one of three check-out lanes when my daughter said, in her most piercing little-girl voice, “Hey Mom, how come all these people are so dark?” I said, “These are black people, honey.” I was stunned. I suddenly realized how lily-white Newport was in those days. My child had never seen a black person.
In 1996, I began a 12-year job teaching ESL at Newport High School. Brown faces were in evidence. Many students and more than a few staff members were not pleased to see the change in the NHS student body. There was an undercurrent of distrust and fear.
The climate at NHS has improved dramatically. Whenever I enter the building now as a sub, my experience is overwhelmingly positive. The prevailing attitude is of acceptance and tolerance. Lincoln County has come a long way since 1978, but, as Ms. Miller pointed out, we still have a ways to go.