Is racism alive and well in Rapid City? - KOTA Territory News

Is racism alive and well in Rapid City?

Is racism alive and well in Rapid City? Some may think so after a racial slur is discovered in two Rapid City parks.

The "n" word was written on a park bench at Canyon Lake Park. The same word was also spray-painted on a structure at Robbinsdale Park.

When Bishop Lorenzo Kelly, founder of Faith Temple, learned about the incidents, he said he was disheartened, but not surprised. "This is 2014. You don't expect that behavior," Kelly said.

He says these types of incidents happen because people don't know a lot about each other.

"If you don't have an experience with someone from a different culture, then you're very suspicious of them. Unless, of course, you need them," Kelly said.

James Swan, founder of the United Urban Warrior Society and Native American activist, echoed that sentiment.

"If you don't understand somebody, just ask. You'll be surprised. There are a lot of people I’ve had differences with. But when I learn about them, I discover they're no different than I am," Swan said.

Bishop Kelly says racism is a learned behavior, something that’s passed down from generation to generation.

“I've had a number of young people walk up to me and say, 'I was raised to be prejudice and I hated black people until I met you'," Kelly said. “ And I’d say, ‘What did you hate about us? What did we do to you?’ And they go back 200 years. Then I say, ‘I wasn’t there and I can go back 200 years too.’ So there’s no excuse.”

Rapid City’s Human Relations Committee, which was recently revived, has the power to respond racial situations in the community. Board member Michael Goodroad said it's good that the media is shining a spotlight on the issue. "I think a lot of people are just not aware that some of these attitudes still prevail. And I think the more awareness the community can have of just exactly how these things come about and that racism is alive in America and our community. The more we talk, the more we can work towards eradicating it in our community," Goodroad said.

Regardless of race, Bishop Kelly says we all want the same for our children. "Black people are people.  Natives are people.  Whites are people.  Japanese, whatever the culture is, we're people."

He hopes community awareness to actions like this that will prompt a conversation between two people who may not have interacted before.

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