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Mudslinging, questionable remarks need to be addressed

Larry French • Aug 19, 2013 at 11:45 AM

“The disease of racism is still alive and well among the contemporary ruins of an evil legacy.”— Dr. William WallisWhile I’m not in the habit of answering emails or responding to letters written to the editor when someone disagrees with an opinion column I’ve written (since it is an opinion, and therefore open for debate); this time, refraining from additional comments is not in my best interest. Granted, during the past several years (seven, to be exact), I’ve been praised, chastised, given an atta-a-boy award, ostracized, encouraged and threatened; however, the thrashing I took over “Health or power?” (June 23) remains the best, or worst, depending on one’s perspective of the actual verbiage (mudslinging) aimed in my direction.Fortunately, though, I’ve not been stoned and my mailbox is still standing.Perhaps, it was because of my audacity to include President Richard Nixon in a column along with such esteemed individuals as our current president, or that former president who degraded the office with his sexual exploits. Perhaps.Or, it’s because there are more Obama supporters in this area than I imagined. Maybe. Or, could it have been the obvious? People just hate Nixon. You know the type: “My daddy said he was an evil man so I think he’s an evil man, too.” Learned ignorance.No, I believe it’s another reason, and the one that’s got my dander up. Y’all excuse that southern term — lest I forget, “I’m of Butler, and not from Butler,” — even though I hail from the lower Delta.I was offended when someone had the gall to email me and claim I was a “racist.”Excuse me, sir? Or, whatever you may be, or wherever you’re from — you don’t know me. And, your glaring and disgusting tone leaves me no alternative but to set you and your misguided remarks straight, and then send you merrily on your way. It seems that in this era of Obama, anytime anyone takes the president to task on any subject, or criticizes his administration (the term administration is used loosely here) on even the simplest issue, that person suddenly becomes a racist. Why? Because the president is black?Does Obama’s being black forbid us as American citizens to rebuke him for his continued ineptness? Have people become this thin-skinned? Are they afraid of Big Brother?Or, is it the other unjustified reason that’s become the norm? You decide.I grew up in Southeast Arkansas during the turbulent 1950s and 60s, and saw the ugly faces of racism.I witnessed the Little Rock Central High School incident, the atrocities of Gov. Orval Faubus and heard teachers continually make repulsive comments. I saw restrooms with four designated entrances, multiple water fountains (always one clean and one filthy), all inappropriately labeled. I remember numerous divided waiting areas, and movie theatres with side street entrances where people had to walk up three flights of stairs, only to be forced to sit “behind” the projectionist’s booth. This was called segregation, and approved by those who claimed to know best. My lifelong friend, William Wallis, took a severe beating in 1963 because he dared to work alongside a black gentleman during the summer, delivering eggs. No one was ever arrested either. Why not?Thankfully, my father taught me that racial inequalities were wrong. A lesson I understood, took to heart and still practice today.This was the South I grew up in, where I learned early on what racism and prejudice were, and removed myself from its evil clutches.Unfortunately, few too many have done likewise, and as a nation, we continue to suffer needlessly because “the disease of racism is still alive and well among the contemporary ruins of an evil legacy.”We are not, however, born prejudiced; someone had to teach us. So, don’t call me a racist.On the lighter side of this issue (if there is one), and to that gentle soul from Elizabethton, who never attended one of my classes at East Tennessee State University or Northeast State Community College; your superfluous endeavor madam, to discredit me as an instructor is nothing less than an unsubstantiated opinion.And last, but certainly not least, to that dear reader who scolded me for using my ETSU email account as contact information. While your reasoning seemed rather vague, I can only presume it had something to do with a conflict of interest, which I took as an insinuation that being in the position of teaching at the university doesn’t afford or allow me to have an opinion when it comes to politics.Sorry friend, but you’re dead wrong.Furthermore, my column was published in the Johnson City Press, and not some university-owned or controlled newspaper. How I decide my contact information should be of little or no concern to you (or the masses) and will remain as is.I do, however, find it necessary to inform my gentle readers about one vital matter: While I am a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, I am not a member of Obama’s media sheep brigade, and therefore, still consider the First Amendment my indisputable right as guaranteed by our Constitution.Larry French lives in Butler. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and teaches composition and literature at East Tennessee State University and Northeast State Community College. You may reach him at FrenchL@etsu.edu.

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