I consider myself incredibly lucky to have grown up in Wallowa County. I’ve always been different from many of the people I grew up around — I’m mixed-race with “liberal” political views and my mom raised me to be a vocal feminist. Despite this, I felt surrounded by people who wanted me to succeed in life. I felt I belonged here.

This past year (and really these past four years) has changed that. I don’t feel welcome in Wallowa County anymore.

The insurrection by Trump extremists at the Capitol yesterday provided an explanation — those who stormed the halls of Congress carried the same signs and flags that I’ve seen back home for four years. The message I have received is this: “If you do not look like us or think like us, you are not welcome here.” I see it on social media from folks back home, in the yards of houses I used to play in as a kid, and on the news channels my family watches.

I care deeply about Wallowa County, and I want it to be a place for everyone to feel like they belong — no matter their differences. Isn’t that the hope of this whole republic?

I’m afraid this story we’re living right now won’t change until we reckon with our history and the damage we are doing to each other.

“We can disagree and still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” — James Baldwin

Anna Bird


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