City of Kingman, Arizona, responds to baiting by Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Who Is America?”

Editor’s note: The following is from a press release from the City of Kingman:

“Every city has resident voices that challenge respect and dignity for others. They are wrong and unfortunate.  That was no exception on the July 22 ‘Who Is America?’ show on Showtime in which an actor baited purported residents to vociferously oppose a fictitious, supersized mosque in our city.

Another in the audience also stated negative feelings towards African-Americans.  No matter the instigation or that numerous ‘focus group’ participants don’t even live in Kingman,  the show’s characterization in the words of one member of our Kingman City Council ‘broke her heart.’ Why? Because our community has made great strides to erase previous perceptions.  We do have a mosque.  We do have a robust Latino community.  We do welcome tourists from all over the world, especially more and more from Asia fascinated by our Route 66 history.  We do have African-Americans applying for leadership positions with the city.  This is the Kingman of today, not of yesterday.

It might be easy to laugh off what took place Sunday night on a show with very low ratings that tries to make everyone look bad. After all, New York City rejected a mosque not too many years ago and Scottsdale, Arizona, once had a big debate over a Jewish Community Center.

But shrugging this off is not going to be us. We’re going to use this opportunity to keep moving our community forward with the help of many community stakeholders including the Kingman Interfaith Council.  And while we’ve been making progress, the comments in the show, fairly or unfairly, show that we still have more work to do.

So here are additional steps we are going to be taking as ours is a community like too many others in America that still encounter such issues.  For the first time our City Manager will be bringing to the City Council a resolution in support of National Hispanic Heritage  Month, beginning on September 15th, in honor of our significant Latino community.

We intend to invite Phoenix Pastor Warren Stewart to help us honor Martin Luther King Junior Day in January.  Stewart admirably and courageously led the fight for the State of Arizona to honor the fallen civil rights leader.  We also plan to work with our Interfaith Council to develop the community’s first Diversity Commission that will be charged with expanding what our city and community does for people of all types and persuasions that have contributed, and will contribute, to this great country.

This is the Kingman of today, and will be the one of tomorrow.”