Around my junior or senior year at Aledo High School, an African-American transient was found tangled up in a barbed wire fence near Interstate 20. Authorities said he had wandered out there and died of exposure. A kid in my class said he had seen the body. When I asked him what it was like, he said it wasn’t like finding a dead man. It was just a dead nigger.
There was one African-American kid in my class at Aledo. His father was a normal, law-abiding citizen who used to get pulled over by law enforcement personnel about once a month, just because he was African-American and an African-American man driving around in our community looked suspicious.
After college and a few years in Austin, I returned to the Fort Worth area and met and married a beautiful African-American woman. After our third child we moved to Aledo to be closer to my parents and raise our kids. One day a co-worker who was also a member of the Willow Park Volunteer Fire Department (an adjacent town which feeds into Aledo ISD) received a call on his radio reporting an “NIWP.” I asked him what an “NIWP” was. He said it was a “Nigger in Willow Park.” I confronted him and informed him my wife was African-American. His facial features shrunk into a disgusted grimace and he said “That Ain’t Right.”
Right or wrong, we stayed in Aledo and I began to think things were changing. Then Barrak Obama ran for president.
My kids encountered theretofore unheard racial slurs from classmates and were bothered by the petty prejudices the school seemed to tolerate more than discourage. My wife and I were disturbed, but we assumed the bigotry would subside after the election was over. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
A couple of weeks ago, one of my oldest son’s high school teachers asked the class what they thought of Obama. Many of my son’s classmates said Obama was the Anti-Christ, vaguely alluding to passages from the book of Revelation. I was shocked and wondered which local church fostered such inanity.
Then, last week, one of my son’s instructors asked students to record in their journals how they felt about the school refusing to air the live broadcast of Obama’s speech on education.
My son usually keeps a low profile, but on this subject he expressed his sense of alienation and frustration. In his journal he wondered if Obama’s speech would have been televised if he had been an “old white guy like most presidents.” His sentiment cut to core of the issue.
If George Bush or John McCain were president and either wished to address American classrooms on education, most schools in the Metroplex would have televised it. No one even bothers trying to pretend otherwise.
This is an ugly time to live in America. There are good people in our communities, but they’re not speaking up, defending our better principles or challenging the sad elements that perpetrate these outrages. Albert Camus once said that the evil in the world almost always stems from ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.
The decision to prohibit the broadcast of President Obama’s education speech in local schools was malevolent and the rationale behind it was clearly rooted in a lack of understanding.
The vilification and dehumanization of our president is ignorant and dangerous. The racist indoctrination of our children is evil and loathsome. Why is it being tolerated? Why are we condoning Jim Crow tactics by our school officials and the rhetoric of lynching by media pundits and politicians?
The current hostilities go beyond sour grapes and unpopular policy proposals. When malcontents attend political forums with guns, it’s not just a 2nd Amendment stunt; it’s KKK tactic. When my son’s classmates believe our president is an agent of Armageddon, Aledo becomes Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. And when rabid tea-baggers hang politicians in effigy, it’s no longer the 21st century. It’s November in Dallas, circa 1963.