Apr 27, 2007

Doing my part to erase Livingston County’s racist reputation

Livingston County Daily Press & Argus political reporter Dan Meisler wrote an excellent opinion piece on the county’s reputation as a haven for racists. He was commenting on a story in the paper about Cohoctah Township, the rural township north of Howell where Michigan Klux Klus Klan Grand Dragon Robert Miles lived until his death in 1992. His farm also served as a HQ for Klan and white supremacist activity.

The title of the column is “What are we going to do about it?” I’m doing my part to do away with the undeserved reputation our community has for being a have for racists by trying to stop racists and hatemonger Ann Coulter from speaking in Livingston County.

Coulter’s appearance at Cleary University’s Economic Club Speakers Luncheon Series reinforces the general perception that Livingston County is a safe haven for racists and bigots of all ilks. The column reinforces what I have been saying for months, that the actions of a small minority are position the majority of the great, accepting people who live here as racists.

Those who live and work here know that the streets of Livingston County are not running rampant with racist rabble-rousers in robes. But those of us paying attention also know a strain of intolerance remains.
For example, in the last few years, a Puerto Rican woman's home and a black man's home were defaced with racist graffiti. A black man's van was vandalized. A crowd at a high school basketball team chanted "U.S.A." at a minority player. A man outside a restaurant yelled racial slurs at an Arabic delivery driver. "White power" was written in a sand trap at a local golf course. A black Michigan State Police Trooper was assaulted at a Brighton bar, and his assailant was convicted of a hate crime.
Not to mention the auction of Ku Klux Klan robes that, to one participant, evolved from an auction of Klan material to a "Klan auction." Meaning that dozens of racists from who knows where converged in Howell to what they perceived as a safe place.

Some of the incidents Dan mentioned I had not heard of, such as the slurs yelled at an Arabic delivery driver and “White Power” written in a sand trap.

But he also forgot to mention the intolerance and discrimination by the anti-gay hate group known the “Love Pac” that first created a far-reaching controversy by labeling a diversity flag as a gay pride flag. It they attracted embarrassing nationwide attention to the county with its book-banning quest. The Ann Coulter flap is just one more building block that reinforces the area’s undeserved reputation as a small-minded, racist community.

Part of a newspaper's job is to shed light on bad things in its community, hopefully resulting in some kind of improvement. We can't address our problems without admitting we have them.
Any doubt that we have a problem should have been erased when kids from Howell were taunted recently at an event in Walled Lake for being racist. There's no excuse for those children's rude and nasty remarks — but they didn't come up with the idea that Howell=racist from whole cloth, either. So the questions become: What can we do about Livingston County's reputation, and what are we going to do about it?

I agree with Dan on what a newspaper’s job is. I admit that at times I take issue with them for things like overworking some stories just to create buzz and the rightwing bent of the editorial page, but for he most part the P & A does an excellent job of being the community watchdog and reporting what the community is talking about.

With apologies to Mark Twain, I wish we, as a county, would stop complaining about our reputation, and start doing something about it.

I agree, Dan, and that’s why I will continue to pull the welcome mat out from under racists like Ann Coulter.

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