Dubuque reckons with series of racist acts

The City of Dubuque is still reckoning with a series of racist acts that happened earlier this year.
Published: Jul. 11, 2023 at 5:53 AM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - The City of Dubuque is still reckoning with a series of racist acts that happened earlier this year.

KCRG reported on one of those incidents at the beginning of June: a teacher at Hempstead High School was caught on video calling a student a racial slur.

In May, the city found two different areas with graffiti that also featured hateful language and symbols. Despite being discovered within days of each other, officials said the graffiti at Allison-Henderson Park and on a Highway 151 overpass were not connected.

Mayor Brad Cavanagh said in a statement for the May 5 City Council meeting, “These incidents are painful reminders that we have much work to do.” Some of that work took place Monday night. The Equity and Human Rights Commission discussed how they can respond to these incidents, as well as shape a city in which future ones don’t happen.

“That word, and I’m going to say it for the context of what I’m saying, but that word ‘n*****’ has a historicity, and it has damaged and killed for a very long time,” said Commissioner Enoc Sanchez. “So I do really like the idea of an educational standpoint.”

The work of addressing racial tensions has been ongoing as the city has a past of racial tension. In 2016, there were two burning crosses near the intersection of Washington and 22nd Street. There was even a Ku Klux Klan rally in the city as recently as 1991.

As for the recent incidents: all the graffiti has been covered up, cameras have been ordered, and two of the incidents are still under police investigation—the Highway 151 graffiti case is suspended because of a lack of leads.

But city leaders are still looking for ways to make sure that when there is a hateful act in Dubuque, the condemnation is loud and clear.

“I feel like that’s something we can do, is let people know what’s happening,” said Commissioner Matt Zanger.