Pilot Editorial

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Heat on diversity

A number of recent criminal and violent incidents have created some negative discussion on ethnic diversity. The crime statistics do not lie, but it is also important to keep the issue in perspective.

It is true that on the inmate roster at the Buena Vista County Jail this week, Hispanic names are easily in the majority.

It is also true that for every minority arrest, there are hundreds who are proving to be good neighbors, productive businesspeople or employees, and strong family-minded people.

There are law-abiding people and scofflaws in every race, color, religion and language. Despite the growing pains that ethnic diversification beings, we still feel the balance is a positive one for Storm Lake and Iowa to experience.

Still, there have been enough incidents of violent conflict involving minority residents to pretend that it is not a problem.

The question is, how do we prevent it? Are there basic cultural differences at work? Frustrations over lack of opportunity boiling over? Lack of respect for authority? Or perhaps a lack of awareness about better ways to deal with inter-personal conflicts in our law enforcement and legal systems?

As a leader in multi-ethnic understand, it will be up to Storm Lake to find ways to prevent such crime and conflict, no matter what the race of its origin. Here, violence, drugs and threats are simply not to be accepted as a way of life. Communication is our one tool of prevention.

If one promising teenager had listened to the reported warnings of a DNR officer this week, he might still be with us today. There is more at stake than crime statistics in our efforts for communication.

Storm Lake needs no more weeks like this past one.

It is not fair to assume that a handful of arrests involving Latino-sounding names means that ethnic diversity is giving Storm Lake a black eye. There is much positive news from that quarter that may too easily be overlooked in our worries.

At the same time, the vast opportunities of living in a free society like the United States brings with it some responsibility to community as well. The laws apply to all, and for those relatively new populations looking to make their way in a place like Storm Lake, it is especially crucial to try to maximize positive contributions to the city and minimize negative connotations.

It is unfortunate to have to suggest that any group of people better police themselves, but in this situation, it may be the truth.

We must keep the challenges in perspective, but not ignore them in our rush to be politically correct.

Violence, crime and tragedy is the enemy of all of us, no matter what our origin or skin tone may be. What we all have in common is a community and a desire to achieve the best quality of life we can for our families. In communication, we believe we can achieve that. Pointing fingers won't get it done.