TBR 4: Racial Discrimination in Idaho
The Myth of the Colorblind State
Big Foot stands 7 feet tall in painted concrete at the city of Parma’s replica fort. His fist raised in anger, his torso splattered in scarlet, he was the terror of the Oregon Trail, according to historical markers. Parma historians say he was half African and half Cherokee with gleaming teeth and kinky hair. Some claim his rampage began after a Christian maiden spurned his marriage proposal. Some say he swung from the gallows at the end of a rope in Nevada... Idahoans need more than fables of Big Foot. This Winter 2014 print issue of The Blue Review probes deep into the politics and power of race.
Idaho spends millions each year promoting tourism, but does very little to polish its human rights image, tarnished by scores of racist acts over the past four decades. Instead, the loudest, most effective opponents of hate in Idaho—those best positioned to help improve its image problem—have been unpaid, grassroots human rights activists. Still, many Americans, influenced by a deluge of media reports over the years, continue to associate Idaho with neo-Nazis, the Aryan Nations and the latter’s founder, Richard Butler.
The sad reality, however, is that Idahoans have long sung variations of “Dixie” in states’ rights harmony with white Southerners on race. But Idaho residents are loath to admit this: “We’ve had no serious problem with racism here,” they argue, defensively.