Not In Our Town partnered with Fronteras Desk, a multimedia collaboration of seven public media stations across the Southwest, to talk about how safe and accepted people feel in their communities. We heard a variety of responses from a diverse group of people, and we’d like to share some of them with you.
“I feel completely safe,” wrote Peter Benedict of South St. Paul, Minn. “I'm a pastor at a local church and I do a lot of service (leading a 12 step ministry, opening a food shelf, etc.) and I don't feel endangered even with the more challenging members of my community.”
Benedict also shared that he lives in an accepting place: “My wife and I adopted internationally from Africa, so we're a multi-racial family, and everyone has been tremendously supportive.”
“I think fear is over-rated to an astounding degree by most Americans,” Benedict wrote. “I've lived openly and with a confidence in my safety for decades; even when I lived near my undergraduate university in a crack complex on a line between rival gangs in Phoenix, I never locked my home, told local people about it, and lived an open life. It has served me well.”
Frank Paiano of Chula Vista, Calif. echoes those sentiments.
“You can always be in the wrong place and the wrong time,” Paiano wrote. “But on balance, I feel very safe.”
But when it comes to acceptance, Paiano believes sometimes people have a hard time understanding his worldview.
“I am definitely counter-cultural. I refuse to watch television, and that puts off many people. I wish the professional sports teams would pack up and leave,” Paiano wrote. “I believe people waste most of their lives watching others have fun instead of having their own fun.”
Trudy Schuett lives near the U.S.-Mexico border in Yuma, Arizona. Even though it’s an area that’s often in the media, Schuett doesn’t think she’s in danger.
“Border Patrol is highly visible both on the ground and in the air. We had a couple of close calls in the 1990s where somebody tried to get into the house when I was home alone; but once they realized the house was occupied, they fled,” Schuett wrote. “A Border Patrol agent once told me somebody could be here in under a minute if we needed help; we've never tried it, but I can believe it. Last spring I had a job that often put me on the road between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., but my worst fear then was of falling asleep – not of anybody causing trouble for me.”
Naazish YarKhan lives in a suburb of Chicago.
“Everyone is friendly and open minded to our Islamic faith. We have as many Muslim neighbors as we do non-Muslim,” she wrote. “Because a majority of us bought houses here when the subdivision first came up, we literally know everyone who lives here. That's 200 families worth. Over holidays and celebrations we share our parties and our cooking across faith lines and it really is a wonderful, wonderful place to be raising our kids. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, people of all races and nations of origin. We couldn't have chosen a better place.”
Recently, Lauren Chamberlain of Phoenix heard a message of acceptance that she wasn't fully expecting."
“In his evening sermon on Yom Kippur, my Rabbi discussed his grief over the recent suicides of teens and young adults who are victims of bullying or harassment, and specifically spoke out against intolerance toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth,” Chamberlain wrote. “He called upon the adults in our community to support all youth who may be suffering from bullying, to take a stand against bullying, and to actively support the rights of the LGBT community.”
She went on: “I was proud of my Rabbi for speaking so frankly about these issues, and for taking a stand in a part of town that is not known for being particularly progressive,” she wrote. “This, I felt, was an important step in taking on hate and building a safe community that supports all of its members.”
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