Do not hold everyone else responsible for your insensitivity 


Even though "Monuments to years of insensitivity" (Daily Mountain Eagle, June 18, 2020) makes important points the assumption that "freedom and injustice" would have been solved if only whites were sensitive enough to black concerns is mistaken. Like this author let me frame my response by personal experience since I was also born in an earlier age, 1959 (Jasper, the People's Hospital). We were living in Grand Junction when our neighbor began harassing my father about the marches in Selma, Alabama (1965) and what those "racist" "southern" "rednecks" in Alabama were doing to blacks ("the police dogs, and the bombing, the marching, the tears and the speeches"). A mini civil war developed at the fence between our houses: north and south, Illinois and Alabama, liberal and conservative. My father (a Baptist pastor) endured this rant for more than a year until returning from a week at church youth camp were rushed at the fence by said neighbor and informed that a black family had moved two houses down from him. The hypocrisy was lost on our neighbor when he told my father, "If I could get away with it I would go burn their house down." 

I was six years old and starting first grade when I became friends with the black boy. He learned I'd been hit by a car earlier that summer (June 1966) and became my protector from further injury. This contact caused disagreement with other kids and only worsened the conflict between the black boy and our neighbors' three sons; the youngest was my age and best friend. I was there when the two older brothers and the black boy's verbal argument became a fight throwing baseball sized stones overhand in long looping arcs. Someone would've died if hit in the head. Sometime later I was surprised when my "best" friend demanded I stop playing with the black boy. I was threatened and ostracized when I refused. Not only was I attacked for not being racist by one side later the black boy also threatened me. I had to choose: black or white. After the black family moved away (likely because of threats) a Mexican family moved in on the other side of our house. I quickly became friends with the new girl my age. It was not long until my "best" friend said I couldn't be friends with him if I was friends with the Mexican girl. As cliche as it might sound, my mother intervened with cookies to stop a fight developing on the sidewalk in front of our house.

I've known many persons of difference races from around the world through our church, like a missionary from India who stayed at our house. When eating with us he would cut my food into small manageable bites (he was worried because I was a very picky eater). His skin was as dark as any American black. 

Or when I was in the sixth grade (another city, another school) was continually targeted by threats of violence because I was white. I've never had the option to be insensitive to these problems nor would I have ever chosen to be but I know my own limitations to fix these problems. I learned as a child that racism will not end until we change the human heart.

David A. Cook, PhD
Jasper, Ala.