MAXWELL:  Unforgettable acts and utterances

8/23/2000 – Printed in the EDITORIAL section of the St Petersburg Times Newspaper

 

Some people, especially our good ole boys here in the Tampa Bay area, refuse to learn that acts and utterances of racism are no laughing matter.

Before you anti-political correctness folks start wailing, let me say right off that when I refer to racism, I am not talking about simple banter or practical jokes among friends (note: friends). Anyone who knows me well knows that I love a good ethnic joke, even ones that cast African-Americans in a bad light.

I am referring to bigoted acts and utterances that ooze from the cesspool of contempt for others unlike ourselves. I am talking about two incidents that occurred in our area a few days ago.

The first occurred in New Port Richey, a town not known for racial enlightenment. Myron Dace, a 24-year-old black man, a night-shift employee at Pall Land and Marine, chatted with his boss outside the aerospace building when he heard a noise to the rear. Turning, he got the scare of his life: There stood a man in a Klux Klux Klan get-up.

“I thought I was going to be hung or something,” Dace told the St. Petersburg Times. As he stood there, another supervisor at the facility removed the hood from his head. He and Dace’s boss (both men are white) got a knee-slapping hoot out of the black man’s fear. ” “You should have seen the look on your face,’ ” the white supervisor said, according to Dace. “I was trying to catch my breath. My heart was racing.”

Dace retrieved the mask from the trash and put it in a friend’s car. The supervisors then took the mask from the car and destroyed it. At that point, the frightened Dace telephoned the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. “If they were willing to go through a car to get it, I didn’t know what they would do,” he told the Times. The duo, acknowledging Dace’s version of events, have been suspended until the company completes an investigation. The Hillsborough chapter of the NAACP has weighed in and will ask the FBI to determine if the stunt is a hate crime.

“It seems like a joke,” said the head of the NAACP. “That’s not a joke.”

The second racist incident, this time an utterance, occurred in Brooksville, an Old South burg also known for its dearth of ethnic fellowship. There, a white police sergeant, who was part of a missing person’s investigation, suggested that the missing Alzheimer’s patient was probably “laid up with some nigger whore.”

The sergeant wants the public to believe him when he told the Times, “As soon as I said it, I knew: Dumb! Because I’m not a prejudiced person.”

Oh, come on.

This cop is both dumb and prejudiced. If he were not prejudiced against blacks, why did he not say “white whore” or “Cracker whore”? After all, we have no shortage of white and Cracker whores on the loose out there, folks. The good sergeant said “nigger whore” because _ not having to think _ it was the most natural thing for him to say. In my neck of the woods, such an automatic reaction is one definition of prejudice.

For his slur, the sergeant received a mere one-day suspension. Police Chief Ed Tincher justified his kid-gloves treatment of the sergeant, saying that “if I felt in any way that he had a racial tendency to discriminating toward anyone of color, he wouldn’t have a job.”

No matter what the chief and the sarge say, I would hate to be a “nigger whore” on his bad side, especially if I encountered him late at night and had no black witnesses. Any cop who casually tosses out the word “nigger” scares me, a black male.

A rehash: In New Port Richey, two supervisors committed the racist act. In Brooksville, a cop is the perpetrator. Here, then, is my long-delayed point: People in authority should never commit racist acts or utter racial slurs. Such people have the power to build and wreck lives. In many instances, a supervisor is the last word in hiring and firing. The word “nigger” _ if it is not part of instruction _ should never leave a supervisor’s lips.

In the case of police officers, they have the power and the means to take life. They are the last group that we want to hear uttering racial slurs. Epithets are a clear window into attitudes and cultural, social and religious biases.

When the Pall Land and Marine supervisors claim they were only joking with the KKK stunt, they were telling Dace that they discount him as a human being, that they do not care that the Klan hood symbolizes all that is bad about race in America. “It just rattled me so bad,” Dace told the Times. “Now I can’t sleep. It’s always on my mind.”

As well it should be. Racist acts are not to be forgotten.