Marion racial equity and inclusion survey reveals some minority groups don’t feel welcome in city

Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 6:20 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Mykel Darrough has been a Marion resident for the past 5 years.

“For the most part, I have gone through experiences where my son, who is now a senior getting ready to graduate, was stopped for just walking down the street with a book bag. In that situation, they said he fit the description of someone,” Darrough said.

Sue Yarber moved to the city this past August.

“I’m in an interracial, same-sex relationship here in Marion. I lived in Cedar Rapids before, and I notice a big difference moving to Marion. It’s not overt blatant hatred, but it’s a subtle,” Yarber said.

Both described feeling unwelcome in Marion, a sentiment other minorities shared in an online survey from the city. The Racial Equity and Inclusion Survey’s results showed only 36 to 42% of people who were non-white feel Marion is very welcoming, compared to 80% of people who are white. A similar split that happened with respondents were those in religions other than Christian, were LGBTQ, or lived in poverty.

“Surveys like this are always going to give you skewed results to begin with, but then certainly the presentation of it seems like it was being presented as a success rather than really looking at those numbers. Those are some glaring numbers,” Sophia Joseph, with the Marion Alliance on Racial Equity, said.

316 people participated in the survey. 86% identified as white. The Census shows Marion is nearly 94% White. Regardless, Joseph said the numbers still show gaps.

“That’s worrisome. Why don’t black people feel comfortable living here,” Joseph said. “You talk to the Civil Rights Commission, and they say their number one complaint is housing. A lot of residents in Marion have a long way to go to acknowledging and admitting that’s there’s an issue.”

City Manager Lon Pluckhahn says the results did show disparities and the goal is to use it as a baseline.

“With the sheer number, we’d really like to see a lot more of the people who are really experiencing or being affected by it, and that’s where that stage of going out and engaging in the community, and hearing people’s stories is really going to become critical,” Pluckhahn said.

They expect to do more of that this Spring.

“So we’ll have the contextual side that backs up the numbers,” Pluckhahn said.

For people like Darrough and Yarber, they just want to feel comfortable in the place they call home.

“We all need to know that there’s someone here and that there’s a group fighting for you,” Darrough said.

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