Racism - The Real Elephant in the Room
By Rachel Mendell
This newspaper has been called upon to deal with the issue of the racial slur uttered during an open meeting of the Galion City Council, Aug. 28.
If we are to deal with this, then we must deal with the root issue. Galion is a racist town. Like it, or not, we carry this reputation in Mansfield and other towns in the area. (A hispanic friend of mine said the two cities he and his family steer clear of are Galion and Shelby.)
In my few years writing for this paper I have heard stories of teachers treating black students with disrespect, even going so far as to hurt them, and the incident is covered up. The fear of retaliation is so strong that I have been sworn to secrecy.
I have heard stories of local stores calling the police because they assumed people of color were shoplifting, even though there was no evidence. This is now called racial profiling. It is still wrong.
I have personally witnessed young people calling a black man by the old 1960 insult, just because he was in the coffee shop at the same time they were and they felt they had the right to say it. Those young people were kicked out of the shop, but the problem still remains.
I have been at meetings covering the story for the paper and heard grown men, respected men within our community, make fun of every nationality. No nationality is left out, it seems. All are fair game for a laugh or a secret chuckle.
And do you remember the gentleman that came to town who had a British accent? People even made fun of him, too.
If the city councilman who uttered the racist slur is expected to publicly apologize for the insult, then there are other apologies that must also be forthcoming.
I ask that all the Galion school students that whisper racist comments in class, walking home from school, shopping at Drug Mart, hanging out in the park and stopping for a drink at McDonald’s please apologize for making fun of all those students and adults that are different than you are.
I ask that all parents who utter racist jokes and comments at home please apologize for passing this ugly habit on to your children and promise to lead your household out of the 1950s.
I ask that all store keepers honor all those who are not white and serve them with the same respect as they do everyone else.
I ask all teachers and coaches to nip in the bud all remarks or cheers that have anything to do with lynching the competition.
I ask all those who say directly after a racist comment, “I was just joking” to understand that it is not a joke. What comes out of your mouth speaks of what is in your heart. If you were not racist, you would never have uttered those words. Please respect all other persons that are different than you.
If you haven’t already heard this, then you need to know that several folks have spoken in private conversations with me of a curse being on Galion. This curse, it is said, is brought about because Galion has never publicly apologized for the lynching of an innocent black man back in 1882.
You can believe that or not. The issue remains: The councilman’s comment is just evidence of a much larger problem. We can choose to shrug and say, “You’re making a big issue over nothing.” Or we can decide today to be a better community, to strive to make friends with those we do not understand, to work together for the good of the city instead of pointing fingers day in and day out at those we feel are worse sinners than we are.
We are talking about respect.