Just call it what it is: Racism
We got a message last week through Facebook:
"I'm writing the T-G to inform you that [name of organization] is planning to hold a demonstration in Shelbyville on [date] against Southern Demographic Displacement."
Well, isn't that charming! Kind of retro, I think. Nowadays, most people are PR-savvy enough (or, perhaps, self-deluded enough) to couch racism in some other issue, to try to make it sound like it's not that they hate people different from them, you understand, it's just that they're concerned about the economy, or security, or historic preservation, or what have you. It's kind of refreshing to have someone come right out and tell you they don't like people whose, um, "demographics" are different. At least you know where they stand.
I'm not sure how they feel they're being "displaced," however. No one is forcing them to leave. Small-minded bigots are still free to live in America and even to hold small-minded demonstrations.
Clicking through to the Facebook page about the event, I see that they're going to start in Murfreesboro and then move to Shelbyville. Their ire was apparently triggered by the documentary that was done about immigrants in Shelbyville a couple of years back. Our demographic mix is constantly changing, and I'm not sure it's the same now as it was when the documentary was filmed -- in a tight economy, some people may have moved elsewhere looking for different kinds of work, or what have you.
The Facebook page for the displacement protest reveals that the organizers are at least somewhat conscious about public relations. They give attendees a list of things not to wear (no T-shirts, and no belt buckles with messages on them) and says not to bring protest signs, as the organizers will be distributing official, on-message signs at the event.
Sadly, hatred of immigrants is nothing new. The surname "Carney" is Irish in origin, and in the second half of the 1800s there was sometimes virulent prejudice against the Irish, especially those who were Catholic, with many of the same arguments and accusations you hear leveled against today's immigrant groups.
No one individual, regardless of race, creed or national origin, should be able to break the law. Each individual, regardless of race, creed or national origin, should treat his or her fellow citizens with respect and should be a positive and productive member of society. But in this country, we hold individuals responsible for their actions. When you generalize, when you demonize a group of people based on their skin color or their religion or their country of origin, you are practicing racism. When you complain about people with different surnames, customs and appearances moving into "your" South and making you uncomfortable, you betray everything that has made America the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Last week we celebrated Martin Luther King's historic speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
"I have a dream," he said, "that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
We have made progress towards that dream, but we obviously still have a ways to go.
--John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette and covers county government.