Addressing Racism in Madison
8-28-11 Editorial by John Ovenden
WARNING: Derogatory words will be used in this editorial in witnessed racist quotes.
I am basing this on my 8 ½ years of living in Madison. Until 2009, I had really only observed one side of it. Starting Madison Voice allowed me to interact more with people of all races and income levels. It has allowed me a “middle of the road” perspective. This editorial is primarily about the black and white racial tension I have observed.
My first observation, after being in Madison a few months, was that wherever the white people congregated, black people did not and vice versa. This includes food establishments, stores, and churches. Honestly, in my first months of daily travels, I thought that I was in town with a 99% white population. It did not take long to find out that racial tension was strong here.
Moving ahead to 2009:
Starting Madison Voice put me in many situations that I had never experienced. It gave me a neutral position and allowed me to see both side of many issues. Racism was one of them. Until 2009, I had only heard some middle-aged white men talking bad about black people. I could see that racism was passed down through the generations. Of course, there are always exceptions to everything, but many of Madison’s white people who are now around age 40 and up have experienced racist teachings by their elders. Don’t get defensive if you disagree with this statement. Exclude yourself if you need to, but finish reading this. Some of the people I’ve met seem to have a deep hatred for all black people. They learned this hatred early in life from parents who taught them to think this way. When people have hate in their hearts, it is difficult for them to find the good in other people.
One incident stands out to me from the special County Commissioner’s meeting about the Ten Commandments. While everyone was leaving the meeting, a man who was pushing to have the tablets on the courthouse lawn blurted out a racial slur about a Commissioner. He said, “That nigger is a one-term Commissioner!” He was upset that he didn’t get his way. Three Commissioners voted against it. They weren’t all black.
Another incident that stands out to me occurred while I was pumping gas at a local station one evening. I was just finishing and hanging up the nozzle when I heard a voice say, “Tell that cracker to hurry up.” It came from a little black child that couldn’t have been more than 4 years old. His mother yelled at him to get back in the car and then asked me if I was done yet.
I get called a cracker sometimes when I’m filming arrests. I don’t take it personally and I feel like it is just a passionate response to the situation. The word “cracker” doesn’t have much meaning to me personally.
These are just a few of many incidents that I have experienced. It seems that racism is rampantly being taught to our children, both black and white, in all walks of life.
Whether you think it is right or wrong, racism exists. It is up to each individual to change. I think that pride is in the way. People might be too proud to even try to change. It is easy to get set in one’s ways. After speaking with many people, I don’t think some see a reason for change. It’s like the episode of Andy Griffith with the feud between two neighbors. “Why you shootin’ at him? Because he’s a Wakefield!” They were raised to feud with one another and nobody alive really knew why.
I don’t have an answer to this problem. It is obvious that the way things are going isn’t working.
It’s easy to incorrectly judge an entire group based on the actions of a few. After a while, it can be hard to look for the good in people. What I have observed is that the blind hatred appears to be fading with the older generation. Though children may still hear racist remarks while growing up, they seem to be making their own decisions about racism.
Here’s a comment recently posted on Madison Voice. I think it’s appropriate to wrap this up.
We could blame our upbringing, our environment, our legal justice system, our parents, our schools, and on and on, but nothing we’ve suffered gives us a free pass to treat each other with hate and cruelty. At some point, people have to stop throwing blame around and be responsible for their own actions. And many of you know what it’s going to take to end the violence and racism and to overcome the things that tear our community apart. We have already been given the solution, both in the larger picture and in every small detail. We have been commanded to love God above all else and to love our neighbors as ourselves. A wise man once said that sometimes the question is complicated but the answer is very simple.