At the turn of the 20th century Butte‘s populace brought with them, from their “Old Country”, their culture and ethnic prejudices. Butte’s sole purpose was mining and the businesses that provided services to the mining companies, miners and their families. It was definitely prejudicial when the people from China were not allowed to file mining claims or the Irish “need not apply”.
As the year’s progressed, discrimination was perpetrated between different ethnic groups and even within an ethnic group, based on what region the other person came from in the “Old Country”. Ethnic nicknames (slurs) became prevalent. Religious inclusiveness caused discrimination. This was also a time of labor unions against other labor unions, labor unions against The Company and labor union membership against scab workers, mostly from out of state, brought in to work during a strike.
Like minded persons settled in small ethnic communities with neighbors that had the same cultural and ethnic background. People were proud of the neighborhood they came from. Generations called their neighborhood home. What wasn’t readily known was that a substantial amount of the ground that comprised these neighborhoods was known as a Split-Estate. This meant that the surface was owned by the property owners but the minerals under the surface were owned by THE Company. Beginning in the 1950’s through the late 1970’s THE Company decimated the neighborhoods seeking the minerals that they owned. People were forced to move. If they stayed in Butte they moved into cosmopolitan neighborhoods. Ethnic differences diminished. Butte definitely became a melting pot.
Today we do not see, in our town, systemic racism. There have been individuals that have encountered or seen an instance of person to person racial discrimination. Most of these reported incidences occurred once in their lives but that one instance has stayed with them through their lives. A number of people shared that they encountered discrimination in other places but found Butte to be the least problematic of most places.
Racial discrimination is not acceptable in any form, from any one, at any time. Any discrimination, racial, ethnic or socio-economic, can destroy the fabric of our community. We have come a long way since our beginning. We still have some work to do though, when we have cases of socio-economic discrimination still occurring.
United we are working together at removing the stigma of poverty and its root causes. We have agencies providing lunches and shelter to the homeless. Others are working together to provide Coordinated Entry and permanent supported housing. We have community gardens and community events to feed and clothe our low-income neighbors. We have agencies that teach life skills to the disabled and another that is helping school dropouts achieve their high school diploma equivalent.
United Way of Butte and Anaconda, local community agencies, and the non-profit agencies we support, provide and will continue to provide programing to all who seek our services free of any racial/ethnic or social-economic discrimination. United Way of Butte and Anaconda is proud to be a part of this community.