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 “I’m going to kill you tonight!”  Those words echoed through her mind as she darkened the lights in the face of a conspicuous death threat.  How would you respond if confronted with this reality?

Sadly, there are many stories like these being told throughout our nation where racial tensions and political unrest seem to be ever-present. Neo-Nazi rallies are still held. Groups, such as Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter, have emerged to give groups a louder voice. The way that voice is interpreted, viewed, and received differs wildly among people from all over our country – the Vail community is no different.

Why have these racial tensions risen in years past (although some would argue they never quite disappeared)? I believe it’s because we tend to fear what we don’t understand. When a person does not make the time to get to know those whom have different views and opinions, our fears have the opportunity to get the best of us.  Yet, when biases are put aside, when a person seeks to listen and to understand another person, there is so much more potential in that moment.

Having to look over one’s shoulder in situations, like the woman confronted with a death threat, is beyond comprehension.  But when the incomprehensible turns into one’s reality, there is some solace in knowing that the surrounding community is there to stand with you.  To me, this is what seems to set Vail apart from what is happening across the nation.

Surprisingly, death threats and racial tension still exist, even within Vail, Corona de Tucson, and Rita Ranch. We can’t turn a blind eye as a community. They are happening.  But what makes us different, and the strength of this incredible community lies in its support for each other.  We see this unity in our schools.  We see this unity among the diverse leaders of our faith community.  And we see this value embodied among our local businesses.

There is great diversity in our community, but it is the unity within that diversity that makes our community so unique.  Creating a culture like this doesn’t just happen overnight.  It has to be embedded in the character of the leaders in that community.  It requires intention, and much collaboration.  And it has to be safeguarded at every opportunity.

What does it look like to safeguard those values?  I once heard it described like a peach.  Yes, I thought that was random, too.  A peach is appealing to the eye.  Grab hold of it and it is soft to the touch.  Bite into it and its juicy flesh will keep you coming back for more.  But if your teeth penetrate its core, you’re sure to break a tooth!  Perhaps our community is just like that.

Whenever I tell people I live in Vail, they are quick to respond, “That is a great community!”  Those who live in the greater Vail area would vouch for its scenic beauty and the authentic relationships that have been fostered here over the years.  I have never seen people rush to support each other faster than the people who live in Vail when an extraordinarily small subset of those seek to denigrate the heart of what our community represents.

Where does this all stem from? Sadly, a reality that recently impacted a family right here in our area that became the target of racial bias and hate.  Although tragic on the surface, what inspired me was the support that was shown to this family. The community rallied together to send a strong message of encouragement. This is not okay and you are not alone! This has helped them to begin processing a positive way forward in what would appear to be a dismal situation.  They are no longer in isolation.  Creating environments for people to get to know this family and understand their culture is a part of dispelling the fears that have been allowed to revolve through mainstream media.  We are a community that stands together—indivisible!

The Greater Vail Area Chamber of Commerce had the opportunity to welcome a new business to the local area recently. I can still hear the words of the business owner. “The people in Vail know exactly what they want.” Her experience as an outsider confirms the strength of our community. I think it goes to say that the people here know exactly what they don’t want, too.  The people of Vail strongly support each other, our community, and those businesses we represent.  We don’t want someone to ruin what has taken so many years to establish.  Those values embraced by the community are the foundation for our children and generations to come.  They are a part of what makes Vail extraordinary.  In those moments when we are most vulnerable, it is comforting to know there is a community that will stand beside you and say, “You’re not alone!  That won’t happen on our watch!”

There are still places in our country where our pledge of allegiance still rings true:  One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all!  Southeast Tucson is one of those places and it feels good to be a part of a community like this.

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