An unprovoked physical attack happened recently in our Valley. A colleague of mine, undocumented, was assaulted from behind in the night, with racial slurs uttered by the cowardly assailant. The victim had enough trust in local law enforcement to report the attack to the police but, as of yet, no arrest has been made.

My colleague and friend contributes greatly to our community through time devoted to kids, family education and dialogue about community improvement. He gives to the whole Valley, not just to his ethnic group.

Why do these vicious attacks happen? As a psychiatrist, I know much of what makes people strike out: We live in a time of great change, with winners and losers as a result. Those who feel threatened or experience losses feel the need to blame somebody, and often attack a scapegoat, or someone who points out underlying problems and needed solutions. However, personal chaos is never an excuse for violence.

As a philosopher said, “All that is needed for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” I was initially reluctant to speak out, for fear the attacker might attack me. But I must take the risk, because any of us could be the next target.

As a community, indeed, to be a community, Sonoma Valley residents must publicly and privately speak out against prejudice, racism and violence in any form. I encourage my fellow neighbors to speak out, go to meetings, write public officials to denounce the denigration of anyone, no matter where they come from.

Dr. Richard Kirk is a practicing Sonoma psychiatrist.