St. Edward Community Deals with Racism Accusations

By: Chad Silber Email
By: Chad Silber Email

St. Edward, Nebraska is a small community dealing with a big problem.

As we reported last month, one family claimed they were the target of racism and hate crimes. But a recent investigation shows at least one of those claims is not true.

St. Edward Police are no strangers to the home on the corner of B and Lafayette Street.

"Every time they called we went there," said Chief Monty Olson. "It didn't matter what it was. There were times we could do something, times there wasn't."

Olson was on the receiving end of many of those calls. Oftentimes, they were claims of racism. Most recently, the grandmother claimed she was the victim of a hate crime because her grandchildren are bi-racial. She told police she was drugged in a local tavern and attacked in her home later that evening. According to the County Attorney's investigation, that never happened.

"As intoxicated as she was when she left the bar, she probably fell on the way home and that's how she got injured," said County Attorney John Morgan.

But that wasn't the only allegation the family made. They reported physical attacks to their property and verbal attacks on their children.

"My kids can't even play outside without being told, 'watch out, the KKK is coming,'" said Amanda Samuels.

Although the Samuels family has left the state, they are sticking to their story. But back in St. Edward, neighbors are also sticking to theirs, insisting the family created their own problems.

"Their pit bulls were a big problem, especially after their male pit bull got loose and killed my chihuahua," said a neighbor who didn't want to be identified.

She admits the family wasn't well liked, although it had nothing to do with race.

"It's not a racism problem at all," she said. "I'm not at all racist. The issue the whole time has been with their dog and their kids running in the streets a lot of times."

As for the allegations of ongoing racism she says, ""I don't think it was going on, to be honest with you. I do know somebody wrote on their porch. Am I surprised? With Amanda creating grief in town and screaming racism, no I'm not surprised."

"It wasn't against them because of their race, it was because of the way they were," said Olson.

The County Attorney also doesn't buy the family's stories.

"It's not a concern to me that they left," said Morgan. "It's for a problem that I think they fabricated so it doesn't bother me in the least that they left."

St. Edward Mayor Marvin Haas doesn't think it's that simple. He says the Samuels children were good kids, and he believes they, and other minorities in the community, are probably dealing with some amount racism.

"I'm going to say I'm sure it did happen, but to prove it and be able to do something on the law side becomes the real problem," said Haas.

Many people of Saint Edward told us they don't want their community to be defined by one family's claims of racist violence. While the Mayor doesn't believe it's a widespread problem, he says bringing the issue to light has been eye opening.

"We have some other families that have adopted some black children and I ask them," said Haas. "They say there's cases of racism or comments that were made but again, it's a few individuals, it isn't the sentiment of the whole community."

Despite all the attention on this latest case, he hopes other families who feel the sting of racism won't hesitate to speak up. But he understands why they might. "They all have to handle it in their own way. They have to decide what's important for them and what the positives are and what the negatives and the backlash that they could get from it."

Although he takes great pride in the majority of his citizens, he believes some people simply aren't going to change.

"I guess if you're that racist, you're going to do what you're going to do regardless," said Haas. "Just because you're reported, just because you're talked to, I don't think it's going to change your way of thinking."

At St. Edward Public Schools, they're trying to make certain any racist attitudes that may exist aren't passed to this generation.

"Our focus is to make sure that the educational process is followed as far as students respecting students," said Superintendent Kevin Lyons.

They hold bullying seminars and teach students that everyone deserves respect, regardless of their background, culture or family situation.

"We focus on the educational aspect and we know that some of the students struggle outside of the school district with the way that their households are, but that's the same as any other school district," said Lyons.

It's a chance to change attitudes inside the classroom that could one day make things even better outside the school walls.

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