Final Thoughts on Hola, Knoxville and the Cultural Milieu

I feel compelled to provide a coda to the Hola posts. I obviously enjoyed the whole experience. I loved the food, the dance, the music and the crowds. I loved hearing Spanish as the dominant language of the day. I loved seeing the faces of children and adults, the joy of the day and the colors glistening on a beautiful autumn day on the renewed 100 block.

The next morning I logged onto the Knoxnews website to read their coverage and to comment and link to it so their readers who were interested might check out my blog. The article in the paper that morning and on the website was a good one. It was linked to a photo gallery and implied that Knoxville was celebrating the Latino community. Strangely, I could not leave a comment because comments were disabled. I suspected this was because the comments were so racist they had to turn them off. It was worse than I suspected.

I contacted Jack McElroy, editor, and he said the News Sentinel does not enable comments on articles about the Hispanic community because the posts are so vile. So an article is written implying that Knoxville is embracing its Latino citizens when in fact, quite the opposite is true. I told him I felt this was the true story and should be discussed directly by the editorial staff of the newspaper. He said they had already explored the topic of vile comments. I felt this story was more specific. You can read his response here.

So, what to make of all this? I think a large portion of Knoxville does, in fact, embrace people of other races, religions and every variety of difference we can find. I like to think that this group includes most of our downtown neighbors. Still, there is no way to deny that racism is alive and well in Knoxville. There are hateful bigots to be found for any group and their venom seems particularly trained in 2010 on Latinos, Gays and Muslims. We’ve had burned houses, burned bars and burned Korans in the Knoxville area in recent weeks.

So who do we want to be? What do we want people to associate with our city? A vocal response to the hate of the neo-Nazis and the celebration of the Hola Festival or burned holy books and frightened gay and lesbian communities? If those who believe in inclusion and value diversity are quiet, those who would destroy it will prevail. I hope Knoxville, and particularly downtown Knoxville will strive for the rich diversity that only acceptance and celebration of those different from ourselves will bring. I long for a downtown in which the color white is blended with every shade in the rainbow, where the cadences of dozens of languages can be heard on the square and where anyone in love can hold hands without fearing what might happen when they round the next corner.

What kind of Knoxville do you want? What will you do to make it happen?

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