Rapid City candidate forum: race relations in the community

Rapid City is only a month away until it elects its new mayor.
Published: May. 10, 2023 at 8:14 AM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - The Minneluzahan Senior Citizen Center Rapid City mayoral forum had four out of the five candidates answering questions about various issues important to people who live in the community.

Tuesday afternoon, the focus was on race relations in Rapid City and how the candidates would tackle the issue.

The topic comes at a critical time in the city’s history, when some say, the divide between different cultures is as wide as ever. Current mayor Steve Allender addressed the issue last year at the time of a racially-charged controversy at the Grand Gateway Hotel admitting there was a “big divide between the Rapid City native population and the non-native citizens.”

This year’s mayoral candidates had this to say about the race relations issue:

Laura Armstrong: “We need to sit down and have those tough conversations. It’s not about guilt-tripping; it’s about acknowledging people, seeing them for who they are, and respecting their cultures. The beauty of Rapid City is that we are made up of a blend of different cultures.”

Brad Estes: “We have a large group of Native Americans who live here, they work here, they’ve raised their families here, they’re a huge part of the fabric of this community, and what I would like more than anything is a chance to sit at a table and just listen and just try to better understand.”

Ron Weifenbach: “To overcome that, each of us needs to look in a mirror and go, ‘What are we doing? How do we approach this? How do we handle this?’ and it comes from all sides. The Native American culture and people in this community are probably the biggest minority in the community. Yet, Rapid City has slightly overlooked embracing the Native American culture in a manner that helps people come together and helps people understand each other.”

Jason Salamun: “It boils down to values: each and every life matters. Instead of looking at each other as individuals, we look at each other in groups and categories, and it’s a good way to dehumanize us, and I think we need to go back to seeing each other as human beings, that you’re a soul, that I’m a soul, and we can connect; it doesn’t matter what your background or what you look like, but there are differences, and we can certainly respect that.”

We could not get a response for Josh Lyle as he did not attend the mayoral forum.

To watch the entire live-streamed mayoral forum you can go to our Facebook and Youtube accounts.