I love my community. When met with challenges, we seek to become better. This is demonstrated in a myriad ways: the mayor declaring Astoria as a city of inclusivity; the creation of the Garden of Surging Waves, and the gathering of folks in the garden after the Orlando massacre; the continued support for military troops; the sheltering of homeless people by the Methodist Church; and the support for labor unions and our fishing industry.

I live in Astoria for these reasons, and more. I moved here from Florida in 2007, and before that I lived in California. Moving to Florida was a culture shock, because I experienced and witnessed overt bigotry in ways that I hadn’t before. On a daily basis, Confederate flags waved from trucks, houses, and were emblazoned on bumper stickers and hats. This flag was a constant reminder that racism, and all forms of bigotry, were alive and even celebrated.

As a lesbian mom of a mixed-race child, the moment I saw the Confederate flag on the back of the truck in my beloved Astoria Regatta parade, I was put on notice. I know exactly what that flag represents for people like me, my partner and our daughter. I know firsthand the hatred espoused from peoples’ mouths and their fists.

We live in this part of the country because we are unwilling to raise our daughter in a place that tells her she is wrong because of her skin color or her parents’ sexual orientation. And though Oregon and Astoria have histories of being home to white supremacists, we are a people always seeking to become better. And I am proud of that.

I was discouraged, and frankly scared, when I saw that flag in our parade. But the reaction of community members has given me faith that we will continue to move toward a more perfect city, county, state and union.

I invite all Oregonians to view anti-racism and all anti-bigotry work as their work. It isn’t simply enough to disagree quietly. This type of flagrant racism must be me met with a resounding outcry. As Audre Lorde said, “Your silence will not protect you.”

Mindy Stokes