Genuine racism is becoming rarer

Wouldn’t it be nice to be around for the very last MLK March for Justice in Wheeling? The day on which a group of people gather for the event, talk for a few minutes, and conclude there’s no need to march — because the last bigot has passed away?

Well, we can all dream, can’t we?

And we can all hope that racism will die out at some point. That’s possible because it’s a learned attitude. Children aren’t born bigoted. Watch a group of black, white, Hispanic and Asian children playing together if you doubt that.

Older people — parents, grandparents and sometimes, adult role models — have to brainwash children into believing people whose physical appearance is different are, somehow, inferior.

The good news is that racism does seem to be decreasing, in part because young bigots tend to grow up, start using their heads, and come to the realization that good old Uncle Bob was wrong about people of other races. The more often that happens, the greater the pool of non-bigots and thus, the greater their power to influence the still-deluded in society.

One of my favorite stories about my career in newspapering involves an enormous miscalculation a gang of prejudiced blockheads made some years back. Apparently, someone suggested to a Ku Klux Klan group that Paden City might be a good place to recruit. So, one day, they staged a march up Main Street in the community. It took most of the cops from two counties to keep the crowd from demonstrating their displeasure physically.

At one point, as the KKK leader was unloading his station wagon prior to the march, the mayor approached him. “I wouldn’t carry that,” he said, pointing to an American flag the KKK fellow was taking out of his car. There followed a diatribe from the Klansman about how he had rights and could display whatever flag he wanted in public.

“Fine,” said the mayor. “But I have to tell you,” he said, pointing to a group of men in camouflage outfits standing about three blocks away, “that those guys are the local Vietnam veterans unit, and they’ve told me you are not going to carry their flag.”

It went back into the station wagon.

Seldom have I been so proud of my Ohio Valley neighbors. So, maybe there’s hope. Perhaps in the lifetimes of our children or grandchildren, the last bigot will pass away.

But not yet.

Another story I’ve related previously in this space involves the scruffy-looking man who was ahead of me one day, 10 or 12 years ago, at a bank walk-up window. Noticing a sign that advised the bank would be closed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, he finished his business, turned to me and snarled, “Just another (N-word).” Before I could recover to react to him, he stalked away.

We still have a ways to go.

But the good news is that we seem to be on the right road. Take it from someone old enough to have seen the real, vicious thing: Genuine racism among human beings — as opposed to the institutionalized version that just isn’t tolerated anymore — is becoming rarer and rarer.

That success has nothing to do with marches, laws or demonstrations, however.

It has everything to do with little children on a playground worried less about skin color than who’s “it.”

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.net.