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For Those Who Haven’t Seen Racism Up Close

Boy, I really didn’t want to go this route, but….

Back in the 90’s the KKK decided it was going to march in my small town, the “supposed” birthplace of the KKK. (I know you all are good googlers so let’s leave it at that without mentioning names, please. )Since the first march we have been visited every couple of years by either the KKK, Skinheads, Arayan Nations, or others of their beliefs. There are some differences in the groups but their message is the same.

After word came that “they” were going to gather the first time, that’s when emotions started bubbling forth. It came from ordinary everyday citizens, white and black, outraged how this came about. Why were they coming here disrupting our lives and bringing unwanted publicity to our town? It would send the wrong impression of us. Can’t we keep them out? We’re not like that! What can we do? Look at the media, they’re coming from other countries! And indeed the media came from everywhere. In the end it came down to “The Paper”. By that I mean, the Constitution. They have rights as do any other citizen or group. So the groups are permitted to gather and speak within legal guidelines.

The first couple of times things were a bit tense. Ordinary people would gather on the square, not because they wanted to join or espouse the views of the marchers, but because they wanted to see. Its human nature to be curious about things you only hear or read about and they were curious. They wanted to see if there were really people that actually wore the white costumes and the pointy hats and wooden shields. The marchers would yell through a bullhorn about their beliefs, and some onlookers would yell back how wrong the marchers were. And I have no doubt some onlookers wanted to see if it was going to get out of hand. How bad was the rhetoric going to get? And what was law enforcement going to do if it escalated? It never did.

Well, the groups continue to come and plans are made accordingly. Numerous state and local law enforcement gather to ensure everything stays calm. Everyone knows the drill. At first residents did things things to show our displeasure of the marchers and and their message. Black and white leaders in our community, as well as churches, would gather in a show of support against the marchers but in the end it was the individuals who were just curious, that just got bored. The onlookers who came early on now just avoid the area on the day the group is expected. The pointy hats or heavily tattooed kids with shaved heads are no longer a curiousity. Without a crowd to talk to, the marchers end up just talking to each other.

The point of this rambling is that throughout the years we have battled this perception of racism even though, we the residents, did nothing to warrant it. Much like many of us here are feeling with all of the journolist talk. We are not racists and have done nothing to deserve the title. The journolisters have a right to free speech and to gather. We, as informed individuals, know what their message is. We’ve known for a couple of years. We were curious yes, to see exactly who started this mess and now we know. We can be onlookers who keep coming back to yell at them or we can simply ignore.

True racism is out there. I’ve seen it. For reference, I’m not black. I am white so I will not even pretend to speak of what a person of color may have personally felt or experienced at any time in their lives. I know what I’ve seen and know how many in our community feel. We continue to support each other while turning our backs on that which would strive to erode our unity.

Putting up my soapbox now.

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