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The death of Rep. John Lewis has sparked a nationwide wave of tributes to his work for civil rights protections for minorities. And we should all join in that wave.

Yes, even here, in our nearly racially homogenous communities in Montana.

Lewis spent most of his lifetime stepping into what he called “good trouble” – getting in the face of those who systematically inflicted discrimination against Blacks. And he did so sometimes at great peril. Marching peacefully into Montgomery, Alabama, for voting rights for Blacks in 1965 he suffered a skull fracture at the hands of law enforcement officers.

It’s tempting to dismiss racial strife as somebody else’s problem here in the northern Rocky Mountains where minorities are but a small fraction of the population. But to do so is a mistake.

There have been local efforts to address discrimination. In June, Bozeman city commissioners asked for a review of its treatment of minorities. Bozeman schools are creating and Equity Task Force to investigate what more schools can do to ensure a culture free of racism. And locals turned out by the thousands to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

But news coverage of all those issues has been met with some derision by those who contend racism isn’t an issue here. Do they protest too much? Could it be that the region – and in particular this community – lacks diversity because it is unwelcoming to minorities?

Just ask those few minority citizens who live here. They speak of enduring institutional discrimination on many levels. The state’s largest minority demographic – Native Americans – are statistically condemned to the lowest socio-economic conditions.

Denying there’s a problem isn’t solving it.

John Lewis was a giant in the civil rights movement for decades. He raised awareness of institutional racism, and he should be held up as a role model in the battle to eliminate racial discrimination.

By all of us.

His death should give pause for reflection on all the ways our culture makes life unjustifiably difficult for minorities.

And when it’s called for, we should all get in some good trouble.

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Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

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