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Two takes: contrasting letters to the editor regarding racism in Gadsden County

It’s sad that there are a few people, (and now our newspaper), that still see and initially identify someone first as “white” or “black”, rather than as a fellow neighbor, American, friend, Havana citizen, brother, sister, etc… It’s even more disappointing when our local newspaper tries to categorize us by our color rather than identify or describe us all as being one people. This is a way to divide us and look at each other according to our exterior color rather than being color-blind. When you mention that “a great many of the events held here in Havana seem to attract only white people,” are you implying that blacks are racist and do not want to attend events that seem to attract whites or are you implying that whites are trying to suppress black attendance? Or, could it be that events are attended by those that enjoy the type of music being played, along with the theme? An event may feature country music or it may feature rap and hip-hop. One such event that I walked to with my wife and our granddaughter played rap, which is not the problem. The lyrics were understandable wherein they crudely, continually, and clearly mentioned the “f” word, women’s body parts using slang terms, the “n” word, etc… We walked away from it very disappointed. Not all events play today’s popular but crude rap & hip hop music, although some do. Additionally, many events draw Tallahassee residents of which have a lot of white residents. Does that mean that Havana is racist because it appears to be attended by a majority white audience mainly from Tallahassee? At the same time, I understand that country music could be annoying and unenjoyable to many folks. Therefore, you can see that there’s a difference in musical taste, which is part of the venue’s draw, when it comes to some events. Regarding “my kids don’t go to the same schools as your kids”, overall, the schools are poor here in Gadsden County. Could that be a reason why the few white families in the county that have children choose to home-school or choose to sacrifice financially through private schools, while at the same time paying tuition twice by also paying for government-run schools through their property taxes? This option is also open to and growing with the many black families that are now choosing private school vouchers along with charter schools. Regarding churches, it’s not an issue of racism, it’s an issue of worship style. I doubt many blacks who may be used to and prefer a more vibrant charismatic worship would prefer to worship at First Presbyterian Church which has a more traditional and reverent style. Regarding stores. Some stores cater to products and clothing styles preferred by blacks and some by primarily whites. Many of our local antique stores seem to attract whites, (most from out of town). It’s all good, nothing to interpret and accuse as racism toward either blacks or toward whites. Restaurants? I’ve eaten in black owned and white owned restaurants in Havana. People here do not see color but rather they look at the menu, prices, the music being played, atmosphere and the exterior facade. Bottom line is that blacks and whites socialize, mingle, and are friends and neighbors together. I have black and white families as my immediate neighbors but I haven’t given it a thought as to their color until I read your editorial which encourages me to do so. The Barbecue Block Party sounds like fun which would also incorporate classic cars. I’m not sure if using the gimmick of cars with big rims and big sounds systems is stereotypical or condescending, but it all sounds like fun for everyone, without regards to race. In summary, I hope that your newspaper will refrain from seeing everything in black or white and promoting as such. It doesn’t have to be that way and we can all move and look forward in a positive manner rather than always looking backwards.

Glenn Smith

What can we do to bring us together? We can apologize. White people can get together, form a proclamation or issue a formal apology, as a city, as a county. We don’t need to wait for the Federal government to issue a national apology. We can begin a national apology here in our own backyard. I’m sorry, white kinfolks. I know you want to say, “It wasn’t me. I had nothing to do with it.” Yet, we did. It was our ancestors, our relatives, and only a decade or so ago, it was us. As long as we try to erase the past, not acknowledge it, not ask for forgiveness, we lose the lessons of the horror committed and the opportunity to improve our lives. We need to apologize: • For enslaving 4 million Blacks for 400 years, using their free labors to help build America. • For documenting a false belief that an entire race of people is only 3/5ths human. • For impregnating Black female slaves to increase slaveholdings. • For lynching, burning, and/or dismembering thousands of men, women, and children – from the end of the Civil War until the 1950s. • For threatening/intimidating Blacks to keep them from exercising their voting rights. • For perpetuating the myth that all Black men are to be feared, giving you the right to shoot them without cause. • For depriving Black children of a decent education by segregating them into impoverished schools. For creating and profiting on caricatures of Blacks meant to demean or insult. • For red-line districting residential areas to keep Blacks out. • For keeping them out of just about everything else they might have benefitted from. The list goes on and on… White people have treated Blacks so poorly for so long, they’d have to be, not crazy to want to ‘get together,’ but surely unhinged. How can you relax, have fun, when there is no trust? When there have been centuries of abuse but no acknowledgment by the offender of that abuse? No, not all white people are racists, but how do you tell a white racist from a non-racist white? You can’t until you know them. And you can’t even begin to relax, until you know in your heart that your offender is remorseful. When this formal apology is created, I volunteer to be the first to sign. Because I truly am sorry for the ways in which my country, my culture, my race has treated Black people. And that includes any of my own behavior, however unwitting. It makes me sad/sick/ashamed because such treatment, such an attitude, goes against everything I was taught by my faith: we humans were created in God’s image. Love thy neighbor as thyself. And our neighbors’ gifts, talents, labors, creativity, and intelligence have benefitted America greatly. When that apology has been signed by thousands, hopefully millions, of Whites and officially proclaimed, I’m hoping we’ll commemorate the occasion by listening to the best Black gospel music Gadsden can muster up. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t respect/love Black gospel music. Perhaps because, as humans, we can all relate to the suffering in those old sorrow songs and to the songs expressing hope that “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

Cynthia Jo Everett