Editor’s note: Today’s editorials originally appeared in The Seattle Times. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
In Skagit County’s “Gateway to the North Cascades,” an astonishingly tone-deaf newsletter from the Sedro-Woolley Museum should spark a frank discussion about race and modern America.
With no contextual information, the newsletter’s lead photo and back page each presented chilling imagery from the past. Readers found a photo labeled “KKK Wedding” showing dozens of uniformly white-robed celebrants, including a child, dated “6/16/26.” The back page contains 1920s newspaper stories about a Ku Klux Klan meeting for a church dedication and “the big Klan picnic at the Whitney school grounds” in Anacortes.
“We hope that a reader will share family memories and copies of photos about the KKK, especially their activities in Skagit and surrounding counties, and statewide,” the article concludes.
The mailer lacked any sort of critical context today’s readers might expect when viewing an appalling slice of racist history. From the presentation, a reader can infer that the museum is making a cordial request for memorabilia. The two news stories are reprinted in the same modern formatting as the folksy message from the museum’s executive director.
In an interview, museum executive director Carolyn Freeman said the newsletter customarily presents items from the past unedited. “We didn’t realize the impact it would have on people, but we should have,” she said.
As Sedro-Woolley city Council member Germaine Kornegay put it during an Aug. 14 meeting, the newsletter “normalized hate and bigotry” for its community recipients. Kornegay, who is African American, is in her second term and is the first person of color elected to office in the city of 10,000.
Through messages delivered by the city’s mayor and on Facebook, the museum acknowledged “this regrettable error in judgment” and is working appropriately to make amends. Museum board members invited Kornegay to join them at a Sept. 5 meeting. City leaders are also planning a community dialogue.
“I know that they’re not racist by any means,” Kornegay said in an interview. “I just want to know what they were thinking.”
Washington’s history includes 20th-century Klan activities throughout the region. This sad chapter cannot be presented in the sanitized terms of the past. America knows too much in 2019 to let the sepia veneer of a 1926 “KKK wedding” photo obscure the racist hatred the white robes represent.
Through proper explanatory framing, images and news stories about Klan activities in the Pacific Northwest can enlighten the region about how racism influenced the region’s history. The Sedro-Woolley Museum’s mishandling of the images allowed yesterday’s propagandists to sell their version of history all over again.
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With President Donald Trump encouraging and normalizing racist behavior from the nation’s highest office, this is no time for such careless insensitivity to have the same effect in Washington.
Push back on green card rule
The state Attorney General’s office is right to challenge a Trump administration proposal that would make it harder for legal immigrants who have relied on public assistance to obtain permanent residence.
The proposal, characterized by AG Bob Ferguson as “un-American, anti-immigrant and unlawful,” relies on a long-held requirement applicants prove they will not be a “public charge” — primarily and permanently dependent on government assistance for survival. The change would dramatically expand the definition to include even temporary reliance on Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers or other forms of public aid.
Legal immigrants, their families and children would be punished for using resources intended to help in difficult circumstances. Worse, the change would discourage immigrants from accepting medical and nutritional assistance and other essential safety-net services for which they are legally eligible. As The Seattle Times has reported, even speculation about the change in policy has driven legal immigrants to disenroll from federal food and medical programs.
These social supports are neither designed nor intended to breed lifelong dependency, but rather to give working people a critical boost in times of exceptional need. Washington is one of 13 states challenging the proposal, which will take effect in October if a court does not intervene. As the states write in the complaint for declaratory judgment, “People who receive those benefits are neither paupers nor primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.” For example, nearly 80% of non-elderly recipients of Medicaid live in a home where at least one person is working, they write.
And despite a steady stream of misinformation seemingly designed to reinforce the baseless stereotype of immigrants as a drain on society, analyses repeatedly show noncitizen immigrant residents make up only a fraction of recipients of food, housing and medical assistance programs for which they are legally eligible. For example, an Associated Press analysis of census data found that only 6.5% of Medicaid and 8.8% of food-assistance recipients were noncitizen immigrants. Overwhelmingly, the beneficiaries of these programs were born in the U.S.A.
The libertarian Cato Institute came to similar conclusions, finding that not only are eligible immigrants less likely to receive welfare benefits, when they do, they tend to use those benefits less, at lesser public cost, than native-born Americans. In a 2018 policy briefing, the think tank’s researchers point out that immigrants here illegally are not eligible for entitlement or welfare benefits other than emergency medical care. Legal temporary migrants, such as students or those on work visas also are generally not eligible for federal supports. Lawful permanent residents must wait five years or more for eligibility unless they live in a state that provides additional benefits at state expense.
In the court filing, the states argue the policy change would unlawfully constitute a radical overhaul of federal immigration law.
It is more than that — it is a radical overhaul of objective reality. The courts should stop this heartless and unnecessary policy change before it starts.