Hagerstown racist? No, we 'unwelcome' outsiders equally

October 03, 2007|By Tim Rowland

Well, we ran out Willie Mays and smacked down the refugees ? now if we could just do something about those people from Frederick, we'll have had a pretty good couple of years.

The Virginia Council of Churches, calling Hagerstown "unwelcoming," has decided to pull the plug on a program that whisks them out of bad situations in their homeland and plops them down here.

That stings a bit.

It's like at home they faced murder, rape, torture, genocide, persecution and mutilation ? but at least it's not Hagerstown.

See? Goes to show, things could always be worse. There's a new line for W.C. Fields' tombstone: All things considered, I'd rather be in Hagerstown.

But it's a close call.

I beg to differ, however. "Unwelcoming" is such a harsh word. I like to think we're "selective" or "discerning."

The Chamber and the travel bureau are going to have a tough time turning that "unwelcoming" frown upside down. Somehow they've got to make the case that we just had some technical problems with the way the program was administrated and that we're not really Jena North.


And this all started because an African woman threw up. Talk about the morning sickness heard 'round the world. If no one responds to this like it was an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague, no one would have even known they were here.

Of course the Virginia Council of Churches, which frankly, couldn't organize a two-car funeral, did leave the door pretty wide open for criticism when it couldn't even agree on who made the decision to pull the plug on the refugee program. It does make you wonder if this is the right organization to be leading a sensitive, international agenda.

Not to worry though, if it wasn't "poor administration" we'd have found some other reason to bust on the outsiders. Like, "they are taking valuable slum space away from our degenerates" or something.

You wonder, now that they've won, of the refugee opponents in their quieter moments, if any, might just in some small recess of the mind, be thinking, "What have we done?"

As in, rejected some of God's most desperate children on earth and got ourselves branded "unwelcoming" in the process. I'd be a bit afraid of arriving at the Pearly G's and have St. Peter tell me, "sorry T-dog, you're not welcome ? no offense or anything, it's just an administrative thing."

So we've put the hurt on baseball Hall-of-Famers, downtown developers and refugees, and everything from school superintendents to orchestra maestros along the way.

Think any of this would surprise Wayne Gersen?

Racist? We're not racist, we hate everybody equally. Remember, we didn't want the Klan in Sharpsburg, either. And we certainly don't like the school board hiring outside talent, no matter what the skin color.

We're not Hagerstown, we're Goldilocksville. We don't like anyone too light (Klan) or too dark (refugees), too rich (city developers) or too poor (Section 8), too smart (school superintendents) or too dumb (me).

It don't matter if you be from Burma or Madagascar, New York or Baltimore. West Virginia? Forget you. And we're not real happy about those Pennsylvanians. They're driving on the roads that we paid for with our hard-earned tax money.

As someone in the newsroom said, 'Why do you think the symbol of Hagerstown is a guy holding a gun, like he's getting it ready to jab someone in the small of the back?' Keep it moving, buddy.

Unwelcoming. Makes me wonder, could anyone move into the community and be widely applauded? Yes, I know. But besides Elvis.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on

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