"I thought America is better than this," she said.
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There is a sign in Rohnert Park that describes it as a friendly city. The place did not feel that way for Jackie Elward, yesterday.
She is the new vice-mayor, and had been taking a call from an unidentified citizen. He was irate that the council had voted to ban fireworks this year.
Then, out of nowhere, the conversation turned ugly and unprintable.
"He basically went on 'f-you, n--er. You better go back to Africa where you belong."
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Those words cut Jackie Elward to the heart.
"This is my community. I raise my children here. This is my home."
What would you do? Jackie did not suffer the insult silently. She wrote about it on Facebook. The reaction...overwhelmingly positive, with anger, too, from people like Mayor Gerard Giudice. He met with the council member today.
"I don't care what the issue is," said the mayor. "The way she was treated is terrible and no public official should be treated like that."
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But as we know, the hate in this stressful year has extended beyond public officials. Racism has found new voices, new victims. Elward had a choice---go negative, or harness the moment.
"You have not given up?" we asked.
"No. I will not give up. This is another channel. Another choice of strength to fight for the voiceless."
Such a fight does not begin, she said, by following hate with more hate. A genuinely strong step moves in the other direction. Elward took it.
"I am going to stop the cycle by saying I forgive you. And there is still time to change."
So said the councilmember has taken a horrible moment and chosen love over hate.