About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Hopeful Bigot

Yesterday, some of you were outraged when a few people suggested, at a Bethlehem forum, that some police officers are racists. Some of you seemed to argue that driving with an expired inspection sticker is a capital offense for which cops should shoot you on sight, black or white. 

Fortunately, most people don't feel that way, including cops. Most officers try to be fair, respectful and polite to one and all, regardless of their race. But racism still exists, even among cops. They are human beings and have the same shortcomings as the rest of us. 

I'm a racist myself. The first thing I notice about a black person is his or her color. If I were truly free from prejudice, the first thing I would notice is the person. But I'm not. Bigotry has been hammered into me. I grew up in Hellertown, where I was told as a child that black people were not allowed to use swimming pools like the rest of us because they smell funny in the summer.

As a kid, if I thought someone cheated me in a deal over baseball cards, I'd say he "Jewed" me  

This thinking started to change by the time I reached high school. I delude myself into thinking I have finally been enlightened and am nothing like those real racists. But then some poor black or Hispanic will walk across the street in a crosswalk in front of me, and will be moving just a little too slowly for me. 

"That n---er has an attitude," I tell myself.

But the person with the attitude is me.

I'm a bigot and will die a bigot. It's ingrained in me, as it is with most people my age who grew up in the Lehigh Valley, at least in the 'burbs.

But there's hope. Not for me, but our kids. 

Just the other day, another bigot on this blog derided President Obama as our "dark hero."  There are kids like my grandson who grew up seeing a black (well, half black) man in a suit everyday on television, talking about important things. Regardless what you think of him, and I don't think much of him myself, the children who have grown up watching him are not buying into the prejudice that has permanently infected me.

So though we are racially divided and there are still confrontations, I am very hopeful for our future. I see it in our children. 

They are better than we are. 


Anonymous said...

Frankly I am disgusted by my "boomer generation". I thought we would be better than this. The outright hatred and anger is a veiled form of racism towards the president. We have had quite a few shitty presidents in our history but some of these people who refer to Obama as the "worst president ever" are ignorant of history.

It saddens me that as a generation we lived through the struggles, the turbulence and tragedy, yet we learned nothing.

I have hope in the new generation they are more accepting and open about things. I guess I just thought we as a generation would be better than we are.

I find my generation to have become angry, bitter, rigid and very self-centered. We are supposed to be the most well educated generation but we act like a bunch of selfish bone headed fools.

We should be ashamed of ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Obama has set back race relations in this nation 50 years.

Anonymous said...

that`s correct! HALF BLACK, HALF WHITE! for he is NOT our first black president!

Anonymous said...

"Obama has set back race relations in this nation 50 years."

If you mean by spotlighting all the bigots out there like you....i guess he has?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have deleted several bigoted comments, and will continue to do so.

Anonymous said...

the upcoming generation is definitely more accommodating as to race.
in a similar vein the military which had to deal with race and managed to handle it also managed to go from don't ask ---don't tell to don't ask--- don't care.
doing your job is important anything else does not really matter.

Canary_In_Coalmine said...

Thank you for a brave post, Bernie.

The responses are instructive. Some change the subject from bigotry to 'feral muslims'. Others complain of great unfairness because it's a little more ok for some people to use certain words.

Here's the bottom line. If someone is offended by certain terms, possibly due to a difficult history, there are two ways to respond:

1) Scoff, call them oversensitive, and continue to use the words that give offense

2) Use different words

Since we prefer not to cause each other pain during our brief time together, I support the second. Those who opt to respond with anything other than kindness and empathy might want to look inside themselves and ask why. Might there be a knee-jerk defensiveness that comes from feeling accused? An unwillingness to admit that one might have unintentionally given offense? It's entirely ok to offend out of ignorance, and it doesn't make one a racist. It's another thing entirely to insist on using words we have respectfully been asked not to use.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have deleted another comment criticizing Obama bc of his policies. That is irrelevant to this post. This is about bigotry, not Obama's handling of Louisiana or his foreign policy.

Anonymous said...


Bernie O'Hare said...

Great story! Thanks.

Ray Nemeth Sr said...

Sometimes I wonder if what is expected of people is impossible, I believe most people treat other people fairly on a 1 on 1 basis. But there is without a doubt a group mentality that is not the same. This applies to black groups and white groups. In the navy black sailors sat together in the cafeteria, the movies, the enlisted men's club, everyone worked together and got along in their duties at work, but after hours they mostly stayed with their group. we can all simplify this as racism, but is it really just human nature that cannot be changed. I personally did not grow up in a mixed community, but supported equal opportunity, voting rights etc. Then we got affirmative action, which was discrimination any way you look at it. It was a big mistake. We also got forced integration, and government is still trying to accomplish this. Most big cities as the minority population moved in and increased, the white population moved out. Is it all because of racism or is racism a natural part of man that cannot be changed. Some people want to deny that race relations are worse now than before this administration, also deny that blacks can and are often racist. This does not help. I certainly don't have the answer to all this, I watch and see and the future does not look good for race relations.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ray, You are looking everywhere but at yourself.

Anonymous said...

Seems your view of the President is shaded with your racism. He will go down as one of our finest Presidents - a man of integrity and honor who represented our country with class and dignity.

Anonymous said...

Obama has set back race relations in this nation 50 years.

Oh please. You mean a President dared to give the black community a voice and call out white policemen with racist agendas? The only people "set back" are rednecks like you. Make America "Great" Again, right?

Jamie Kelton said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Central Scrutinizer said...

8:48 - What many older white Americans don't understand is that when they try to equate black "racism" with white racism, you are doubling down on your racist views. First, and probably the most important point, is that RACISM requires a power component. At a macro level, black Americans hold now power in society - they are the ones being oppressed since the birth of this nation. Blacks hold no power over whites so racism inherently cannot exist in the same way. Slavery, Jim Crow, etc affected one group of people and the effects still linger. Second, when coming to the table to discuss race relations, a mistake is often made expecting black Americans to make identical concessions as white people. This again is incorrect. Black Americans are the ones being oppressed and no matter how much you believe that whites are discriminated against in equal measure, you would be wrong. Very wrong. Third, understand and acknowledge white privilege. Don't look at white privilege only at a personal level - people often get bottled up in "I have no privilege, I'm working and just getting by!" kind of nonsensical thinking. As Bernie eloquently noted, the feelings he is fighting exist all around black Americans. He doesn't necessarily get nervous if a white person walks slowly down the street toward him. That person holds white privilege.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Jamie, I deleted you bc you attempted to veer off topic. You attempt to justify your own bigotry bc you disagree with Obama's policies. That is not a justification,and is an attempt to sidestep the issue. I will not permit you to confront anything but yourself. Sorry but I really have to be tight about this, in view of the hate already posted and deleted.

Anonymous said...

If you think about it, racism is just one of the more overt and obvious ways that we as humans try to separate ourselves. I don't know if it's an evolutionary trait inherent in our species. We evolved in separate branches of the same tree and for tens of thousands of years, our ancestors (whom generally looked the same because of genetics) saw other groups of people as hostile because their own survival depended on it. Just ask the neanderthals how interacting with homo sapiens turned out.

I mean, we build fences around our houses to keep people out. We hang out at members-only clubs so other people can't join. There is (or used to be) male-only golf clubs so women couldn't interact with us (except in the hosting or dining capacity). We are democrat and republican and independent. We are fans of our sports teams, wear their over-priced jerseys to show "our colors" (if you want to see violence, wear a Cowboys jersey at Lincoln Financial Field). We brag about our cheesesteaks but deride tourists and people not born in the Lehigh Valley. We support our country (mostly), yet when there's CelticFest or Puerto Rican Pride parade, we tout our ethnic heritage. Think about how much we label ourselves, divide ourselves, separate ourselves from one another. I don't think it's necessarily a conscious decision all the time. But racism and misogyny is just the most obvious and overt ways we do it because you can't change the color of your skin, and you can't easily change the gender in which you were born.

I want to remain hopeful. I think Western society has come a long way in the last 100 years. It's taken wars and movements and time and education, but we are learning. It will take more than my lifetime to be better. But we will never be a Star Trek utopia, and quite frankly I don't want to live in a world where "we are all the same" because I would think it an awfully boring place to be.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, the view that we exterminated Neanderthals has been pretty much discredited. The DNA of modern humans includes 1-4% Neanderthal DNA. Traces of Denosivan DNA also exist in modern humans.

Anonymous said...

Bernie O'Hare said:

"I'm a racist myself. The first thing I notice about a black person is his or her color. If I were truly free from prejudice, the first thing I would notice is the person."

I don't think that makes someone a racist.

No matter what room you walk into, you're going to notice things about people. Some people might be tall, some might have different color hair, etc. And when entering a room, "the person" can't be the first thing anyone can notice, since that takes getting closer, along with time and communication.

Where I think one crosses the line into bigotry (not necessarily racism), is the thought they have after they notice what color someone is. If that "next thought" ascribes certain negative characteristics to the person because of their color, that's where the trouble can begin.

Similarly, it's also a problem when someone assumes that others have the same bigoted thoughts that they do. Two people could both look at the same person and notice their skin color first, but have very different thoughts come into their mind after that.

Calling others bigots or racists is often more a reflection of how the accuser thinks, than of the person being accused. Over the past decade, I've listened to television commentators talk about things like "code words" used to disguise comments about race. Maybe I'm just out of the loop, but I still don't know the code. I often think that maybe the code words are what those commentators use to hide their own bigotry.

The sad part is that they aren't helping to solve the problem. While I like to think they're truly sincere about cleansing their own souls, in reality they're only perpetuating the problem by making people think that innocent phrases are somehow now racial slurs.

Anonymous said...

Central Scrutinizer -

To paraphrase a famous quote on an entirely different subject:

Whether you think you're oppressed because of your skin color, or you don't think you're oppressed because of your skin color, you will be right.

This is the greatest nation in the world, with opportunity for all. I don't doubt that there are obstacles for those who aren't white, but they can be - and have been - overcome. Not by everybody in every case, and not without struggle (no matter who you are), but it is possible.

The shame of the last eight years is that our current President could have used his Presidency as proof that anything is possible, but his misguided world view prevents him from doing that. Instead of using his success to inspire, he has chosen to divide. No matter what your political leaning, it's been a terribly wasted opportunity, and I think we all hoped for better.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'm not going to allow you to use this thread to talk about Obama. Talk about yourself. I don't know how i can be more clear.

The Central Scrutinizer said...

10:33 - The criticism of Obama's impact on race by white people is endearing. Obama DID use his Presidency to show the black community that "anything is possible". Around this country, millions of black children have been inspired by him whether they know it or not. The famous photo that Obama has hanging in the Oval Office of a young boy touching Obama's hair because the child said "you have the same hair as me" is proof. White America wanted Obama to come out and chastise Black America. That's not what is needed but there is ample proof many just don't get it as they chant "All Lives Matter".

The Central Scrutinizer said...

And by the way, Obama didn't cause the division. It was always there. It's embarrassing that you've never seen it.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

This whole argument is about finger pointing. Be real. When it comes down to it nobody gives a ahit what Cable news, politicians say, black or white leaders or anyone outside themselves. That these somehow influence what someone wishes to believe either based on their own experiences or personal prejudices. The kind of people who speak ill of others are intolerant, uncaring and selfish in their attempt to isolate others who aren't in 100% agreement with themself looking for validation.

Anonymous said...

So now the new requirement is not only to treat all people in a fair manner, but we as white people must get on our knees and admit we have made black peoples condition what is. we are responsible and if we distrust a group of young black men, we are racist and need to beg for forgiveness. This may be no more than a natural survival mechanism and now we must deny our own instincts in the name of anti-racism. Sorry, this will never happen. You have now gone off the deep end.

Anonymous said...

As I've gotten older I realized in every culture there is a sub-culture of trash. The "hooray for me, F everyone else, I'm special" trash. This sub-culture of trash can be any color or race, rich or poor. If you feel you are above others because of more or less melanin you are trash. If you feel you should have more rights and privileges for the same, you are trash. If you yell "racism" with full knowledge none exists not only are you trash, but you perpetuate the trashy racism.
I have seen another type of racism expressed by people I would not consider trash but definitely ignorant. These are the people who excuse the trash of a culture by identifying the trash's actions as a race or cultural trait other than trash.
"They come from the islands, they all act that way." "They come from a poor country, so the actions are to be expected". "Their ancestors were treated terribly, so we should all bear a burden for wrongs we had no part in." "It's fine that your rights are stomped on, because people of the same race/color as yours have deprived some other race/color of their rights in the past."
These people who make excuses for the trash sub-cultures are the other side of the same prejudiced coin.
Side note: I had a teenage girl walk in front of my car at an intersection on a green light, taking her good ole time. I didn't think "N..." , I thought "another piece of Allentown trash, brought up by trash."

Anonymous said...

1.21 I agree, except I find the use of the word Trash offensive. You maybe should use something like, "culturally deprived".

Anonymous said...

Central Scrutinizer said:

"White America wanted Obama to come out and chastise Black America."

Nope. I think everyone just assumed he would try to make things better. That's the same standard any President (black, white, or other) would be held to, on any issue.

Instead of an MLK approach on race, he's taken a Malcolm X approach. Great if you think it's made things better, but most (white and black) would say things are worse. Not worth arguing about.

Anonymous said...

Hey, you say you're a racist, and who are we to argue with you?

Just don't assume that when others notice that someone's black that they're thinking the same things as you are.

Anonymous said...

The Central Scrutinizer said...

And by the way, Obama didn't cause the division. It was always there. It's embarrassing that you've never seen it.

What's embarrassing is that you let that division define you, obviously can't get past it, and somehow must think that your approach will make it better.

From your first post, you obviously feel that white people hold some sort of power over you. If you've had real discrimination against you because of your race, take it to courts. That's what makes our system great, and what the courts are there for.

If you're looking for something beyond that and are searching for a world where nobody judges another unfairly (for whatever reason), you will always be disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Liked the comments at 4:45 and 1:21. Agree with most of it. Bernie, like you I am an old white guy. In fact older than you. What many of our folks have to really try is to look in the mirror. Self awareness is tough. It can even be painful as you know. We as people of all races tend to project our frustration, fears and anger on others. We tend to listen to and follow those who echo those thoughts. As an old white guy most of my friends are angry and super pro-Trump. Why, "cause it tells it like it is." I think this is a reflection of our general inability to come to grips with our own lives.

I know guys who are mad that they can't use certain words and hate the "political correctness". My thing is why use a word or words with someone if you know it will hurt them? What is your point? Weren't we brought up better than that? Why offend someone on purpose? It is called being polite, using tact and basically being a decent human being.

This was an excellent post Bernie. You should periodically delve into these things. We all need to grow and evolve no matter who we are and how old we are.

The Old White Dude!

Anonymous said...

Amen Bernie. My hope is for the next generation to get it right. They will either learn to live together in relative peace or we will end up killing each other for eternity like in the Middle East. The future of the US is in our hands but more hopefully in our children and grandchildren's hands.

I am totally pessimistic about us. We only read what we wan to see and listen to "news" that we like and agrees with our views. How did our generation end up picking Trump and Clinton? Just look in a mirror. Very Sad. We no longer challenge ourselves to think and possibly change.

Anonymous said...

"The first thing I notice about a black person is his or her color. If I were truly free from prejudice, the first thing I would notice is the person. But I'm not. Bigotry has been hammered into me. "

Does this make you a racist? I don't think its about your observation, but how you treat the individual or group.

I love dogs. I'll see a German Shepherd and describe it as a German Shepherd, I see a Collie as a Collie, that does not mean I like or treat one different than the other. I'll see a woman as a woman, Does that make me a bigot or sexist? I might describe people as short or tall, female, black, white, yellow, whatever, its an observation. I'll know more as I get to know them and that will become the my remembrance, my recognition. I thinks its how we treat each other and not as we observe or might describe each other initially. Its rather a recognition that we are all the same on the inside, if not always on the outside, and how we treat each other that matters.

alfonso todd said...

Kudos, Berne, for confrontng the ssue nstead of avoiding the facts....

Much respect!

- Alfonso Todd

Anonymous said...

Agree with 7:41, I also see a black person or a white person etc. My hope is that as we live on we learn to not prejudge based on that fact alone. One guy already posted about "white trash". I know some and they are educated but I know them as trash. I am sure if you asked some black folk they would tell you they know some "black trash". Not meant to be offensive it is just that we all have to work at over 300 years of conditioning of white black relations. It isn't easy but if we remember and work at it I think we will come out better some day.

We need to confront endemic poverty and demand excellent education, even if that offends the teachers unions and I am a union guy. Poetry and ignorance is the curse we all deal with.

Anonymous said...

I think most everyone was born with some sort of racism or bigotry in still in them by historical generations!? Today though in this hippt up fast paced world with all this flipp flopp shitstorm segregation is a faint memory!?

Your line of we are all in this together summs it up pretty well for this generation as the children are and allways will be our best asset!

REpublican redd no party affilliation
patent pending

Anonymous said...

Bernie, your post eloquently and honestly expresses prejudices that you have inherited as part of your upbringing. These are in the air and no one can avoid them. But prejudice is different than racism or bigotry. Racism is, in fact, prejudice plus power. When someone exercises power over another based upon their prejudices about skin color, they are being racist. This is why minorities, while they too have prejudices, are less capable of racism, because they have less power than the dominant group. It is also why those with explicit power, like police, are more likely to be seen (and to behave) in a racist manner. It is really difficult for them to suppress their prejudices - especially in high stress situations - and not exercise their power in ways that reflect deeply ingrained prejudgments about others.

Michael Laws said...

Bernie Thanks for being honest here, it's refreshing to see . So few people lack the courage, to be honest Bravo...I tip my 40 to your honesty....(humor)

Anonymous said...

Touchy feely psycho-babble. Poor poor me, whaaaaa

Bernie O'Hare said...

Michael Laws, I had to look that up. I must have quit drinking before that expression became popular.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, you must be pleased with the response to this topic you posted. Some rays of light in a dark sky.

Anonymous said...

What is troubling about society today is social or political correctness being confused with bigotry. When I was a child, the term, "negro" was used. But, today the term is considered racist. So is "black" and "African American ". The acceptable phrase is "people of color". "Colored people" is also unacceptable. To be safe, I use "non-white". Does that mean I am a bigot?

Anonymous said...

By the way, bigotry is not genetic. It is acquired from parents, siblings, peers, school, government and society in general. When I was a kid, there were two black girls in my 2nd grade class. When Brown v. Board of Ed became law. One of the black girls was told that she had to five more blocks to a school that had no blacks in the 2nd grade. Solution: mother withdraws child from school. Solves problem for everybody. That happened here in Pennsylvania, not Mississippi. Government sponsored racism existed more in the North than people want to accept.

Anonymous said...

"To be safe, I use "non-white". Does that mean I am a bigot?"
well do you judge someone based on their skin color?
that would help answer your question

Gary W. Gorman said...

very powerful message and admissions there, Bernie.

Now, let me get back into the 'ol hat I wore in Lehigh County.

*knock, knock, knock*
{door answers}

Hi Mr. O'Hare, my name is Gary Gorman from LCOCYS. They've been reading your comments on line and now, effective immediately, you cannot see your grandson anymore. He's bi-racial and you just admitted [for the world to see] that 'you're a bigot'. Sorry...no contact or the County will put him in foster care.

BOH (dumbfounded): how can you do this?!?!?!!!!!!

Sorry, I wasn't my doing. My supervisor is making me, and he is supported by his supervisor, and she is supported by her supervisor and the director listens the experts in the field.

So, Bernie...agree now, or I am required to call APD to assist me in getting the court order barring you from any contact with your [beloved] grandson.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You are creating a bullshit scenario bc I think you are half nuts. No judge would seriously entertain such a petition. On its face, it's ridiculous.

Gary W. Gorman said...

Yes, it would eventually get thrown out in court, thankfully, but a court order isn't needed to take a child into protective custody. A detention hearing is 72 long hours away for a child to sit in foster care and then a full hearing 10 days after that. All my supervisor wants you to do is agree to have no contact with him and we can avoid court involvement. You're a former lawyer, you should know the law.

I've been forced to take protective custody of children for a lot lesser reasons. So, instead of calling me "half-nuts", and despite that the agency does wonderful work, why don't you realize that there are aspects of the agency that need correcting.