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Racism steals our humanity

February 13, 2005|by LINDA DUFFIELD

Racism. It's an ugly word. The fact of it is even uglier.

That word has gotten a lot of play lately, in large part because of the Rev. LeRoy Guillory.

I don't agree with Guillory's tactics, but that doesn't mean I don't see some nuggets of truth in what he says.

I am white, so I cannot speak with any degree of certainty about how much of a problem racism is in our area. I do know, however, that not every white person is a racist, just as I know that not every black person is a racist.

I also know there are white racists and black racists out there.

Here's how I feel about that: Black, white, brown or green, if you hate someone simply because of skin color, you're just plain wrong and you're helping to perpetuate something that should have been wiped out long ago.

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If you judge a person's worth, or sincerity, or good will (or lack of it) on the basis of color, then you're missing a chance to get to know someone who could enrich your life, broaden your horizons and offer insights you otherwise might not have a chance to gain.

I'm not going to talk about how much better the situation is today than, say, in the 1960s. I know things have changed because I was around back then. I know many of the changes have been for the better. But some things have not changed enough, or fast enough.

As Guillory correctly pointed out, no blacks hold elected office in Washington County. All members of Washington County's delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, the Hagerstown City Council, the Washington County Commissioners and the school board are white. There are no black members on any town council in the county and there are no black mayors.

That is wrong and the situation needs to change.

I don't see how angry rhetoric and increasing a rift, real or perceived, between blacks and whites will bring about that change.

Politics is colorblind in at least one important respect. Getting elected is hard work.

Black candidates must run for office and they must campaign hard for the positions they want to hold. They must give interviews, shake hands and get to know their prospective constituents, both black and white. Name recognition means something when a person steps into the voting booth.

Candidates should articulate their ideas, explaining to the community at large what they want to accomplish in office. If there is a plan on how they would go about doing that, all the better. Of course, it never hurts to hit on topics that resonate with the voters.

Black voters must go to the polls and support those candidates whose messages strike a chord with them. White voters must see beyond race and cast their ballots on the basis of who would be best for the job.

Getting elected will require organization, dedication and tireless effort.

But all of the hard work could pay off in the end. Having our decision-making boards reflect the full spectrum of our community would be a victory for all of us.

Linda Duffield is managing editor of The Morning Herald. She may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7591, or by e-mail at lindad@herald-mail.com.

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