01/16/09 — Sad ignorance: Graffiti isn't easy to see or talk about, but we must

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Sad ignorance: Graffiti isn't easy to see or talk about, but we must

Something happened in downtown Goldsboro overnight Wednesday that cannot be ignored.

The words that were scrawled across the side of one of the brick buildings were so offensive that they cannot be pictured in a family newspaper, let alone repeated among polite company.

They could not be excused away with references to freedom of speech or political discourse, or any of the other lofty principles that often accompany discussions about commentary that might be termed offensive.

And their existence says nothing about the thousands of men and women in Wayne County who live their lives without the hate and ignorance those words represent.

They are not justified because they are rooted in politics or acceptable from anyone as a commentary about the outcome of the November election. And no self-respecting Republican or Democrat would ever condone the fact that they spent a day on a wall in his or her city.

They are simply ignorant hate-speak.

But that doesn't mean that the slur about President-elect Barack Obama should be ignored, swept under the rug or otherwise simply attributed to foolish ignorance -- even though that is what it boils down to in the end.

This is a wake-up call -- a reminder -- that there are still people out there who have not overcome their prejudice, their hatred, their archaic judgments about people who are different from them.

And it is a jarring reminder that we must never ever forget that words can be strong, damaging and dangerous -- whether they are racial slurs or vulgar criticisms of those who wear uniforms in defense of their nation.

This community has always been one that fights sometimes, disagrees often, but accepts quickly. The new Wayne County is full of people from all sorts of different backgrounds and races living their lives together.

And while many of us did not support this president during the election process, we are patriots who would never do anything to disgrace the country or the community we represent.

So we will erase the epithets off the wall and feel some anger at the ignorance they represent.

But if we mean what we say, we will also think about the fact that there are stands we should take -- sometimes -- even when it is uncomfortable for us to examine the circumstance.

We won't give the perpetrators the attention they seek, but we won't miss the opportunity to remind ourselves of the responsibilities that go along with being a citizen of a nation with so many freedoms.

That means standing up and speaking out when something is simply ... wrong.

Published in Editorials on January 16, 2009 9:58 AM