We recently published an article regarding refugee resettlement in Burleigh County. On Monday, Commissioners were scheduled to consider a request from Lutheran Social Services (LSS) to continue accepting refugees. Turnout was so large for the meeting that it was impossible to fit everyone in the room without breaking fire code. As a result, the issue was postponed in order to consider it in a larger venue.
In an interview with the Bismarck Tribune, Lisa Hargrove expressed her view that opposition to resettlement is “racially and fear motivated”. In other words, she threw out the race card that’s become so commonplace in today’s political environment. Hargrove is Executive Director for Bismarck Global Neighbors— a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that supports refugee resettlement.
As I wrote on Tuesday, this was an unfortunate and unnecessary move on the part of Hargrove. Can any thinking person honestly believe that race is a paramount issue for everyone opposed to continuing Burleigh County’s participation in refugee resettlement? Such a claim defies logic.
If we’re honest with ourselves, claims like the one made by Hargrove are intellectually lazy, do more to drive wedges than to build bridges of understanding, and are often designed to shame opposition into silence.
After learning Wednesday that the Burleigh County Commission set their special meeting for this coming Monday, Hargrove posted this video on Facebook. In it, she encourages supporters to attend the meeting, contact commissioners, and to write letters to the newspaper. She actually makes some fair points along the way.
But what’s perplexing about Hargrove’s comments comes around the 1:14 and 3:00 marks, when she says this:
“There’s also this misperception that refugees are sucking up resources that should go to white Americans.” (1:14, Emphasis Added)
“Be kind. It’s not helpful if we go on social media and we call people stupid or we say that they’re racist.” (3:00)
“White Americans”— seriously? I encourage you to watch the video in its entirety. I’m not taking things out of context here. The comment from Hargrove is — once again — a claim of racism. Yet, less than two minutes later, she’s asking supporters not to call people racist? Seems a bit disingenuous to me.
Ms. Hargrove is obviously committed to the organization she works for and its cause. I believe she actually cares about the people she seeks to assist. And I even agree with her that many refugees are good people. But should taxpayers be responsible for footing the bill to bring them to Burleigh County? Is this really the proper role of government— to extract money from the citizenry and use it to “resettle” others?
Somewhere along the way some folks got the idea that it’s charitable to give away other people’s money. And it’s not— not at all. Yet, those who believe that it is somehow think they have the moral high ground when it comes to issues such as this. And the reality is that they don’t.
Charity comes when individuals voluntarily give of their time and resources for the betterment of others. It never comes as a result of the forceful hand of government.
If refugee resettlement is a positive for communities, like those found in Burleigh County, then by all means let the merits of such a thing influence the acceptance of it. But let’s get government out of it and remove taxation as a funding mechanism.
Ms. Hargrove is right. Hateful comments and name calling are unnecessary— regardless of what side of the debate a person is on. And with that in mind, if she truly wants to “help people understand”, then she should probably take some of her own advice. After all, I’m betting that being lumped into a group accused of being racist probably isn’t going to do much to win friends and influence people.
Note: Monday’s Burleigh County Commission special meeting will be held at 6pm. The location is Horizon Middle School.
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