Racism on the ropes
August 18, 2002
Craig Ziemba is a pilot who lives in Meridian.
The Klan marched through the streets of the South last month almost. Apparently, after they were issued a permit to march through York, Ala., the Klan didn't have enough time (or was it enough people) to stage the event. Reporters expressed indignation and dismay that the Klan was still active in our area and local news ran old footage of a couple of white guys in sheets for dramatic effect.
The real story, though, is that things have changed dramatically for the better in our lifetime. Racism may be alive, but it sure isn't well. All that's left of the bonfire of hate that once burned across the South is a few weak embers glowing in the hearts of some bitter old men and underclass punks who need to feel like somebody is worse than they are.
I was born and raised in the South, and I can honestly say that I know very few people my age that care what color someone is.
Most folks my generation care only how someone behaves, and I freely admit that I am biased against people who look or act like thugs. I wouldn't hire a white skinhead with a pierced nose, and I wouldn't hire a black kid dressed like a gang member. Color doesn't factor into the equation, but attitude does. Isn't this what Martin Luther King dreamed of when he longed for the day men would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character?
When I was a boy, I heard adults use racial slurs and make fun of blacks all the time, but their feelings of animosity and hatred weren't passed down to most of my generation. Even the hearts of quite a few older Americans have changed.
My grandmother didn't like blacks. Of course, most of her life she didn't really know any, either. A couple of years before she passed away, she told us she was going to visit another church with a nice family she met.
For several weeks she bragged on her new friends and told us how exciting their church was, but seemed reluctant to tell us exactly where it was. It turned out she was going to a black church and enjoying it immensely.
Race baiters don't want you to believe that racism is dying. Ironically, white supremacists and liberal black activists agree on one thing: it is in both of their best interests to have everyone believe that the South is still under the stranglehold of racism. By focusing on the past, both black and white extremists thrive in a symbiotic relationship that would be funny if it weren't so tragic.
Let's face it: the Klan loves notoriety. They want us to hate them, fear them, make movies about them, and treat them like a force to be reckoned with. Doing so gives a ridiculously small number of white supremacists a feeling of power and influence. It also gives and effective fund-raising issue to black racists like Louis Farrakhan.
The heart of the South will never heal if the wounds of the past are continually reopened by those with a divisive agenda. Perhaps the most effective way to handle hate groups isn't to deny their right of free speech but simply to deny them an audience. If no one paid them any attention, they would give up rather quickly and racism would pass from the intensive care unit to the morgue.