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Posted: May 3, 2014 10:00 p.m.

Racial bigotry decreasing with each generation

Thoughts of a baby boomer

For the past week, instead of the major media writing about the economy, worrying about the apparent lying in our federal government  or bringing to light proper care of veterans, it has focused its attention on Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Sterling, without a doubt, is a bigot and has been one apparently all of his life. But to keep blasting out stories about him only feeds his ego and the rest of his kind of people.

Sterling is a member of what is called the greatest generation, which in turn has spawned the baby boomer generation.

In my lifetime I have seen racial bigotry decline with every generation. There was a greater sense of it in the greatest generation group than the baby boomers, and even less from the generation X group. This of course is a positive. Racial equality is happening, but for sure it’s not here yet — at least not for everyone.

When I was growing up there was a hint of a racial divide in my extended family. It wasn’t overt, but never the less it was there. I don’t sense that now at family gatherings of my second, third and fourth generation cousins, or when I watch their comments on Facebook.

Racial tensions occur in all racial groups. When I was collecting for the local newspaper in predominately black neighborhoods in my hometown during my younger days, I felt the seemingly pure hatred from some of the older folks I encountered. Those looks of pure distrust and hate are still in my mind today.

That was also true in some all-white neighborhoods as I heard the N word used in a derogatory terms by many of the greatest generation folks.

I am glad to say that this was not the case with a majority of folks I met.

In the 1970’s I took a black friend to a nightclub in Charlotte, and as soon as we sat down management asked him to leave. He got up immediately and left, and I sat there stunned. I then started to run my big mouth and I was escorted to the door by a group of big bouncers — I guess I’m fortunate I still have all my teeth.

Later, with the same man, I went to a party up in the mountains, and there were at least 300 black people and one white man, me. I thought I could use my charm to be accepted by the group, but I was not, and to tell you the truth I felt fear and felt fortunate to leave.

My first publishing job was in the coal fields of southwest Virginia. There were no black people in that town, the high school band still played Dixie and a great deal of the residents had never in their life met a black person. They were the most prejudiced people I had ever met, including the first member of that community I ever met. The 85-year old owner of the only bank in town proceeded to play me a tape of events that led up to the last hanging of black men in that town in 1914.

He later lost his bank because he refused to allow a black bank examiner in his bank in order to examine his books.

Some of the folks that felt this way in that town were just a step above the banjo player seen in the movie Deliverance.

I came to the conclusion that everyone has to believe there is someone lower than them in the class system, in order that they could have someone to dislike.

In 1989 I went to California and before I left, if you saw a mixed couple walking down the street it still was a novelty and everyone stared. When I returned in 2008 that novelty no longer existed.

In California many people didn’t stare at mixed couples, but they had their own prejudiced against Hispanics.

I did myself at first. At my paper 99% of the people working in the mail room and the press room were Hispanic, with one white employee. At first, I was determined to make him the leader of those departments, but it turns out he was nuts and almost burned the building down. As time passed I developed a relationship with my Hispanic employees that has been enduring, and I found the Mexican people were as hard and honest of employees as I have ever had.

I didn’t say all of the above to prove that I was a purist on race relations, and I readily admit that at times in my life I have sat in the privacy of my own house while watching the news and thought bad thoughts about other races for some of the ills of our country and the world — I doubt whether many of you no matter what race you are, have not done the same.

All races have their bigots — ones like Donald Sterling. They are to be looked upon with pity more than scorn.

I am heartened by the fact that the next generations, especially the millennials, don’t appear to be tainted by any bad memories of a country that was divided by race. When these kids take over the leadership of our country, then maybe the constant drilling into us by the media that a majority of us are still bigots, will cease and there then will be true racial harmony in our land.

 

T. Pat Cavanaugh is the publisher of The News. You can reach him at 770-787-6397 or pcavanaugh@covnews.com

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