Media outlets from across the country, many with an agenda, descended on Kansas for the past few weeks to cover the trial in Wichita of three Southwest Kansas men who were convicted Wednesday of conspiring to blow up an apartment complex of Muslim Somali residents in Garden City.
These three have done great damage to the reputation of Southwest Kansas. Through their recorded phone conversations and prejudicial social media postings, three men that allowed hate into their hearts and allowed themselves to be manipulated by their own government to further those hateful actions led to their conviction.
In a way, it also led to a miscarriage of justice on us all.
From one biased media source to the next, the effort was made to paint Southwest Kansas as a bastion of conservative hate and discontent, a place where racism is alive and well in all-white communities who have yet come to terms with a multicultural world.
If ever there was a place to be called Trump Country for all the wrong reasons, they surmised, this is it.
That’s the picture they came to paint, and these three men’s actions gave them all the ammunition they needed to paint us all with the same brush.
It’s exactly the type of thing they claim to abhor — judging an entire group based on the actions of a few. That is, after all, the seed that grows into racism.
For some of these news outlets, from California to New Jersey, anyone from Southwest Kansas is an anti-immigrant Islamaphobe that was seduced by the hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump during his campaign, so much so that they do not welcome foreigners simply because of the color of their skin or their religion.
This is the agenda they want to push.
But not all of them.
Two film crews have come through to learn what Southwest Kansas is really like.
They have found the people to be friendly and caring, and they have seen firsthand just how diverse our communities really are with majority Hispanic populations in the three largest communities in Southwest Kansas.
We have to make sure that when given the opportunity we paint a truthful picture of who we are, a freedom-loving people who respect the law.
We have to resist the fear-mongering and the bait to say what the biased media wants to hear.
In one story posted on horseedmedia.net, our own Kay Burtzloff, who ran our Seward County United Way for years, took the bait.
She was quoted as saying, “I will be the first to tell you I do not fear getting killed by a Muslim. I fear getting killed by an angry white guy. That is much more likely to happen.”
This statement does as much harm to Southwest Kansas as the actions of the three would-be terrorists.
She is fanning the flame that angry white men are creating fear for a 61-year-old white woman in our community, and it is simply not true.
There is no history to back up that statement, that any white man, Hispanic man or African American man for that matter, has performed any public act of violence. Drug crimes? Sure. Domestic crimes? Absolutely. But angry white men killing public targets? Not once.
That’s exactly what these outlets want to portray, and Burtzloff gave them another indictment against our community, another bullet in their chamber to use against us all by claiming white racial violence is “likely.”
That makes our job of restoring our reputation that much harder — not denying the truth, but being advocates for it, showing how our community overcomes racial and religious differences every day.
Biased people cannot understand how a conservative community can also be compassionate and welcoming. And yet, we practice it every day in our schools, businesses, parks and playgrounds. We celebrate July 4 and Cinco de Mayo. We enjoy New Year’s Day and the Chinese New Year.
Are we proud Americans? You better believe it. Do we back the badge? Of course we do. But don’t let others paint that as hate or division. That is just as racist and bigoted as attacking people of color, and we must reject all attempts at hate.