It is becoming increasingly hard to ignore, excuse or explain away — both at the national level and locally — the rising numbers of incidents that can only be described as bigoted or racist.
From the recent distribution of KKK literature in West Manchester and Dover townships, to a July 28 Washington Post expose of white supremacist activity in Ulysses, Pa., to the fact that the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies Pennsylvania as home to some three dozen racial hate groups, racist attitudes and, worse, actions are increasingly, uncomfortably on display in Pennsylvania.
It has been an ongoing and growing problem:
— Recall the outburst at the York County School of Technology celebrating Donald Trump’s presidential election victory: students marching through the halls waving Trump campaign posters with one shouting “white power!” That incident brought widespread attention and a round of soul searching.
— An unwelcome national spotlight again focused on York County in April after a group of five African-American women were confronted at the Grandview Golf Club by a course representative who called the police on them for allegedly playing too slowly.
— KKK literature attached to bags of candy was strewn across lawns in the Montgomery County town of Hatboro this past May.
— Starbucks faced national outrage this spring after two black men were handcuffed and arrested while awaiting the arrival of a third friend at a Philadelphia-area location. The company held a half-day, nationwide series of racial sensitivity training sessions.
— A 24-year-old Lower Windsor Township man was shot to death in a Hellam Township bar last month after attempting to defend another patron who was targeted for racial slurs.
— And the headline of that Washington Post story, “How white supremacists split a quiet Rust Belt town,” is uncomfortably close to the headline of a Feb. 28 story about nearby Lancaster on the website In These Times: “How a Small City in Pennsylvania Became a White Nationalist Target.”
The incidents are too many, too similar, and too one-sided to be sloughed off as an unfortunate series of coincidences. They point to a real and ongoing issue: Pennsylvania’s continuing inability or refusal to face up to the strands of racial intolerance long intertwined in its social fabric.
Making matters worse: Such attitudes are being encouraged by the dog-whistle rhetoric coming from the nation’s top elected official.
From his refusal to criticize white nationalists following last summer’s deadly “Unite the Right” demonstration in Charlottesville, N.C., to his continuing penchant for insulting the appearance and intelligence of African-American critics, President Donald Trump has provided substantial cover to those harboring racist attitudes.
Look no further than social medial accounts like Facebook or Twitter to find, almost daily, examples of white Americans insulting, threatening, assaulting or needlessly calling the police on people of color — absent any instigation.
It is a loathsome state of affairs both nationally and here in the Keystone State. And it needs to be addressed and reversed.
A real leader would recognize this and, using the pulpit of the White House, wield words of wisdom and healing. We have no such leader in the White House at this time.
It is up to everyday citizens, then, to stem the tide by modeling inclusive behavior, shunning those who espouse racist or insensitive views through symbols like confederate flags and calling out more explicit examples of racism and bigotry in the public square.
Tread carefully: The fatal episode in Hellam Township last month demonstrates the danger to be found at the intersection of hate and anger.
But neither turn a blind eye. Racist attitudes flourish absent resistance. And under the current administration, there has been too much of the former and too little of the latter.