GUEST EDITORIAL: Marble member responds to podcast’s accusations

(BY DOUGLAS TAFT/Douglas Taft is a member of the Marble Community and is responding to a recent podcast series by Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and former state senator John Smith)

As a resident of Stevens County for the past almost 24 years, I have been taken aback by the recent interview between John Smith and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. The accusations and innuendo contained in this three-part series are very disturbing. The subject matter in this series has to do with white supremacy and anti-semitism in Northeast Washington. I felt a need to address the slander and unfounded accusations that have been made against my community in this series of interviews. I do not wish to enter into a “back and forth” dialog in this venue, but merely want to give a first-hand perspective from an actual resident of Marble Community.

I moved to Stevens County in January of 1995. I have been in the ministry since 1982 and I have not only been a resident of Marble Community since I moved here, but I also serve on the pastoral council at my church which is located in the community. I work at a high-profile healthcare facility in Stevens County and have met many of you in this capacity. Since my early days of living here, I have never witnessed any of the activities that are delineated in these interviews. I have been politically active all of my adult life because I believe that each of us has a duty to do what we can to make our communities places where justice and peace are the order of the day. I was was not the least bit uncomfortable to be a black man living in a predominantly white community. We have always had people of varying ethnic backgrounds in our community. My church and my community has proven to be the best fit for me and my family. In all of the years that I have been here, I have never heard, seen or been exposed to any rhetoric that even comes close to what is inferred in this series of interviews. I would highly encourage anyone who has bought into this narrative about my community being a bastion of white supremacy or white separatists, to contact someone who has first hand knowledge of issues like this, such as myself. My children happen to look more like me than my wife, and they have never experienced anything but full acceptance in this community or the larger community of Stevens County.

I am very offended that a man whom I have called a friend for these years would put out a narrative about my community without at least a phone call to me to substantiate these claims that he makes in this interview. To assume that my community subscribes to any of the tenants of so-called Christian Identity, is absurd and borders on the ludicrous. Since the nearly 24 years that I have been a resident here, I have never heard of any such nonsense in private or public discourse. The leaders of our community and church have never taught or encouraged anything having to do with Christian Identity. I should know since I serve in a leadership position in both the church and the community. We work together and play together.

We encourage involvement in the greater community as well. For those of you who know me, you know that I am no one’s “token” anything. I believe that I would be characterized as someone who knows what he believes and speaks his mind about those beliefs without being confrontational.

I believe that we can agree to disagree on various issues without the conversation degenerating into name calling. John Smith makes sweeping accusations about my community in a public forum without speaking to the one person who would potentially be in “harm’s way” if there was any truth in his accusations. That person would be me. And for a sheriff to champion one person’s perspective under the color of law is equally reprehensible!

All the sheriff had to do was give me a call and I could have very easily corroborated or refuted this information. In a nation that is deeply divided so often along racial lines, I would hope that this would be a good opportunity to address issues like this in a rational manner taking care to get our facts straight first. I can only attest to what has happened over the course of my time at Marble Community. Since I have been here for all but four years since the community began, I think my assessment of the current situation would be most accurate. So I would encourage anyone who has seen or heard this interview to contact me with any questions and I would be more than happy to set the record straight.