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1st Indians in Washington

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Contributed by : Manu Bhardwaj

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A HUNDRED YEARS AFTER THE BELLINGHAM RIOTS, the Bellingham Herald ran an editorial apologizing for the language used in the coverage of the 1907 event in the paper: It's painful to read about the mobs that terrorized members of Bellingham's East Indian community 100 years ago. 

 Aside from a small minority, residents reject racism. There simply is no place for racism, hatred or fear of those who speak different languages or who have a different skin tone. We have no tolerance for those who would divide our community. 

 Unfortunately, 100 years ago racism was not only tolerated but encouraged in the pages of this newspaper. 

Tuesday marks the 100-year anniversary of Bellingham's 'Hindu riots, when a mob rounded up the city's East Indian mill workers and ordered them out of town. The workers were intimidated and, in some cases, assaulted. Police did nothing. 

 At the time, The Bellingham Herald contained editorials with some of the most demeaning and hateful stereotyping you will ever read. And the other two newspapers in Bellingham, both of which are related to our history, were as bad or worse.

The day after the riots, The Bellingham Herald contained this passage: "The Hindu is not a good citizen. It would require centuries to assimilate him, and this country need not take the trouble. Our racial burdens are already heavy enough to bear.

The piece went on to insult the intelligence and work skills of East Indians. Later pieces, and those in the other papers, used racial epithets and insults that today are not acceptable for publication in a community newspaper. 

Some of the editorials spoke out against the riots, saying mob rule was not the way to run the city. But even those editorials agreed that no one wanted East Indians in town and that the citizens of Bellingham were better off after East Indians were driven from the city. 

It's time to apologize for the venomous racism, for the demeaning talk, for the refusal to defend human beings against a mob because of their skin tone and ethnicity. We apologize to the East Indian people in our community today, and to any right-thinking person who is disgusted by the actions this newspaper took in one of the darkest times in our community's history. We are disgusted too."


 

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