I have hesitated sending this letter because I know how riled people can get at any notion or hint of racism in Park County. However, I have to do this every few years so our people …
I have hesitated sending this letter because I know how riled people can get at any notion or hint of racism in Park County. However, I have to do this every few years so our people realize that Park County, both Powell and Cody, have always had the specter of racism hanging over it.
I am second generation Indigenous North American Native. My grandparents came to America from Mexico in the early 1900s. But since my family has lived on the North American continent for centuries, it merely consisted of crossing an invisible line from Mexico to America and our nationality became American. We didn’t cross an ocean because we were already here.
But all that aside, I keep hearing from various people and reading in newspapers that there is no racism in our area. I always smirk when the subject comes up because, well, surprise! I know different. I am only going to talk about the last, most blatant instance of racism I have experienced.
I am a 68-year-old single woman and have lived in Powell for most of my life. A few months ago, my van was sideswiped by an unknown vehicle. The damage was considerable and I do have an idea how it happened. But, I don’t point fingers unless I have concrete proof.
I was going to State Farm and parked in front of the PD because I knew I would have to get an accident report. As I got out of my car, I saw an officer pull in and get out of his vehicle. I thought, “Great, I can get the accident report and take it with me to State Farm!”
As the officer approached, I politely asked him if I could get a report to take with me to State Farm. The officer turned, looked me up and down, looked at the damage, and looked at me again and said, “No, I’m not going to give you one because you probably won’t get it fixed.”
Then he turned around and went into the PD. I stood there in total shock and felt like someone had just squashed me like a cockroach! I had no words, but from the hate-filled, condescending way I had just been treated I knew I would probably get arrested if I questioned his decision. I was so humiliated, I didn’t even get his name or badge number. I didn’t tell David Blevins for about three months because it was such a blatant, racist act, that I had no words.
I have lived here long enough to know when I experience discrimination, such as white people telling me I speak good English for a Mexican, or I could make them some Mexican food and they will pay me. (I don’t cook!) But those examples are so common I just laugh it off. But for an officer of the law to be both judge and jury is totally unacceptable and I have to say something, especially with the situation our country is currently going through with the police and people of color.
I refuse to believe that this officer is an example of all the law enforcement in Park County. A few years ago I had the privilege of interviewing some of the ladies who homesteaded in the area and had never lived any place other thanPowell. It was a little disconcerting to hear how much hatred they still had against the Japanese, or “Japs,” as they called the people who lived at the “Jap Camp.” So, I guess the saying that the more things change, the more they stay the same is true.
And for those of you who find my letter hard to believe, yes, hatred and racism are still alive and well in Park County. And there really is a group of white supremacists in Park County. Heck, I went to school with some of them. However, regardless of all the hate and racism, I love Wyoming. And though my family are few now, I cherish the friends I have here, both brown and white, and keep them close to my heart now and forever.
Peace and love,
(Editor’s note: Powell Police Chief Roy Eckerdt said the response attributed to the officer in this letter would not exhibit the type of character he expects from his employees, nor would it fall within the mission, vision or values of the department. Eckerdt said he had not received a complaint related to the incident and therefore hadn’t had an opportunity to investigate the allegations.)