Sunday, November 2, 2008

Racism is Alive and Well in Pennsylvania

By Paula Cochran
For The Daily Item
November 01, 2008

The Pennsylvania town, Coatesville, is notorious for the 1911 murder of Zachariah Walker, the last man lynched in Pennsylvania. Walker, who was under arrest for killing a white steel company guard, was dragged from a Coatesville hospital and burned alive in a field just south of the city while a crowd of 1,600 people watched the black man's grisly fate.

As horrific as that might seem, and as much as we'd like to believe racism in Pennsylvania is gone, this year's election has assured us that racism-- and race-based hate -- are still alive and well in the Keystone State.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit specializing in tolerance, lists 33 hate groups in Pennsylvania. Included in that list are two Keystone State Skinhead groups in State College and Harrisburg and four KKK groups scattered across the state. The list does not include a newly formed KKK chapter in Franklin County.

Additionally, Pennsylvania has seen a large number of racial epitaphs at political rallies across the state.

On Oct. 11, a McCain/Palin supporter flaunted a stuffed monkey wearing an Obama sticker in Johnstown. While others in the crowd joined in screaming, "kill him" and "off with his head," and even verbally attacking a black member of the media, calling him the "N" word and telling him to "sit down, boy."

At an Oct. 28 McCain/Palin rally in Pottsville, a demonstrator chanted "Bomb Obama!" repeatedly. When a cameraman inquired what that meant, he said, "Get rid of him. I ... when he gets in the White House ..." Pointing his finger like a gun and mimicking the sound of a shot being fired.

Another attendee to the rally, holding a Democrat for McCain poster, simply stated he'd never vote for a black man. Period. "I don't want to sound racist here," said another participant, "but I do not want a black man running my country."

A couple I spoke to from the Valley said race will be a factor this election. They are concerned about Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Wright, who "made race-related comments," the wife said. "I have concerns about Obama's wife, who made racist comments," the husband added. Yet, neither can quite clarify how they think the issue of race -- Obama being half black, might impact future of the country, or his decision-making abilities.

A local restaurant and bar owner was quite blunt in stating his unwillingness to ever vote for a black person.

The Grand Dragon of the Saint Thomas, Pa., KKK states his argument on the group's Web site, "The Ku Klux Klan is about the love and fight for our own race," and that "the Klan is a white Christian fraternity. Atheists, Muslims, Jews and other religions are on the increase, which is another threat to our great culture."

Considering Obama is a half white and a Christian, it seems to be reverse racism to label him "black," while ignoring his white half.

Apparently, that in itself can cause tensions.

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader was quoted by the Rocky Mountain News stating, "He's half African-American. Whether that will make any difference, I don't know. I haven't heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos. Payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead. What's keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white?"

One can only hope that the racism we have witnessed firsthand here in Pennsylvania is the product of a very small minority of the population. As a citizen of this great state, I would like to think the vast majority of Pennsylvania voters will select a candidate based on their ability to lead the nation, not on the color of his skin.

-- Paula Cochran is a Mifflinburg resident.

1 comment:

Tiffini said...

im not voting for obama, but not because he it black. its simply becuase less than 3 years in the senate does not make enough political experience to lead this country! and i dont agree with his payday lending objectives, if he shuts down payday lending that will put thousands and thousands of people out of a job, and with our economy the way it is, rising unemployment rates is the last thing we need!