(KCPW News) A U.S. Department of Justice program is looking into escalating racial tension between Polynesian and Hispanic gangs in Salt Lake City. West-side community activist Michael Clara says he asked the federal government for help because he believes children here aren’t learning that racism is unacceptable.
“They may be getting their mathematics and their reading at school, but where then are they getting their ethics and their values, you know, to be acting like this?” Clara asks. “And so that’s kind of what I’m reaching out to the Justice Department for is saying: How does a community face this and how do we start instilling these values into our children?”
The SPIRIT program aims to resolve and prevent racial and ethnic violence by bringing in an impartial party to help community stakeholders find solutions. These stakeholders include the Salt Lake City School District, the mayor’s education coordinator, and the state Department of Ethnic Affairs, among others.
Alama Uluave, a Tongan Salt Lake City School District Board Member, says the program is well meaning, but he believes parental involvement is actually the key to ending the tension between the city’s Polynesian and Hispanic youth.
“They naturally fall into those groups already naturally and that’s where they take their stand: Hey, I’m not worth anything, only thing I can do is bully and I’m going to do it through the gang or I’m going to survive because of a gang,” Uluave says. “But if their parents and their school work is number one, then I can see a fighting chance.”
The SPIRIT program has held two meetings so far. A third one is scheduled for November.