George Graham

Old Attitudes Persist Beneath a Polite Veneer

Newt really got to Sandra when he proposed that “poor” 9-year-old children should be put to work scrubbing their schools’ toilets. She complained about it for days. And her indignation increased when the presidential hopeful joined hearts with the Donald to come up with a plan for young paupers to get “apprenticeships” so they could develop the kind of “work ethic” their betters have.

I was outraged myself. Who talks like that in this day and age? But I wasn’t that surprised. I know there are many people in America who resent and despise the poor.

In many cases “poor” can be translated as “black.”

I suspect that when Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump (pictured above, right) imagine children cleaning toilets, they’re seeing black children, not the ones they chuck under the chin at family gatherings.

And they’re not alone.

Every once in a while, evidence of usually suppressed but deeply felt racism pops up in America.

Consider this excerpt from an article by William Glaberson distributed by The New York Times News Service yesterday:

They called people “animals” and “savages.” One comment said, “Drop a bomb and wipe them all out.”

Hearing New York police officers speak publicly but candidly about one another and the people they police is rare indeed, especially with their names attached. But for a few days in September, a raw and rude conversation among officers was on Facebook for the world to see — until it vanished for unknown reasons.

It offered a fly-on-the-wall view of officers displaying roiling emotions often hidden from the public, a copy of the posting obtained by The New York Times shows. Some of the remarks appeared to have broken Police Department rules barring officers from “discourteous or disrespectful remarks” about race or ethnicity.

The subject was officers’ loathing of being assigned to the West Indian American Day Parade in Brooklyn, an annual multiday event that unfolds over the Labor Day weekend and that has been marred by episodes of violence, including deaths of paradegoers. Those who posted comments appeared to follow Facebook’s policy requiring the use of real names, and some identified themselves as officers.

The comments in the online group, which grew over a few days to some 1,200 members, were at times so offensive in referring to West Indian and African-American neighborhoods that some participants warned others to beware how their words might be taken in a public setting open to Internal Affairs “rats.” 

But some of the people who posted comments seemed emboldened by Facebook’s freewheeling atmosphere. “Let them kill each other,” wrote one of the Facebook members who posted comments under a name that matched that of a police officer.

“Filth,” wrote a commenter who identified himself as Nick Virgilio, another participant whose name matched that of a police officer. “It’s not racist if it’s true,” yet another wrote.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Of course, New York cops do not represent all Americans. Few of the Americans I know would deliberately pepper-spray peaceful protesters as the cops did in their unprovoked attacks on the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators (photo above, left).

But their attitude reflects – to a greater or lesser extent – the hostility that far too many white Americans harbor toward ethnic minorities.

This country has come a long way from Jim Crow and segregation, but it still has a long way to go.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for