One of the most often repeated claims in the lead-up to last Sunday’s Black Lives Matter (BLM) rally was that it wasn’t needed in Grayson. People pointed out that Carter County – which is almost 98% white according to the most recent census data, with less than one percent of the population identifying as black or African American – hasn’t had the sort of police brutality and deaths of minority citizens that we’ve seen in larger and more diverse metropolitan areas. Racism just isn’t a problem here, they said.
Unfortunately, they were wrong.
Grayson’s small African American community could have told you that before the rally. A sibling of two black KCU students told the Times during the city’s first BLM rally that her brother and sister had experienced discrimination and had racial slurs directed at them. Rally organizer Dee Garrett – who has become a polarizing figure in part due to his criminal past and his Facebook Live videos – claims he has also been called by racist names while demonstrating. That kind of discrimination and hate is what he claims caused him to lose his temper and post a Facebook video, since deleted, that worried a lot of property owners and citizens of Grayson. Garrett has apologized for that video, but the genie was already out of the bottle and counter-protesters showed up in droves to voice their disdain and/or to back the police and defend property.
We accept that most of those folks were just out to protect their city, their property, and their friends. They stood quietly and stoically, guns holstered or held at their sides, while the protesters marched from the courthouse to the police station and back again.
But there were a few who were very vocal, and they said some horrible things. Adult men, grown, gray haired, and nearly frothing at the mouth in their anger, screamed at young women who showed up to support the marchers. Curses and names too ugly to repeat were yelled from the sidewalk at the demonstrators and organizer Garrett. At least one group made multiple lewd and suggestive comments directed at one or more of the female demonstrators.
It may not have been the majority, but the vocal minority who made those kinds of statements and comments should make all of Carter County stop and take stock. You and your friends and family may not be racists. If you had people who came out with weapons, they may have been there with the intention of defending rather than intimidating. We want to believe that most of the people in Carter County have good hearts, and wouldn’t discriminate based on race. But the first hand evidence of Sunday stands as proof that there is a pernicious germ of racism under the surface in Grayson and Carter County. We can’t pretend it isn’t there. We may not see it often, and that may be because most of the faces we encounter on a daily basis look a lot like ours, at least in terms of complexion. But it is there.
We cannot, as a community, let this go. We may not agree with all the different actions and suggested policy that falls under the umbrella of the BLM movement. That’s OK. You’re allowed to be opposed to looting and rioting and opposed to racism as well. But we need to do better about confronting one if we’re also going to confront the other.
Focusing just on the looting and rioting emboldens the hate mongers, and empowers them to spew venom in our communities. Focusing on the racism without acknowledging the fear that some have of big city problems following folks to our rural communities leaves those people, some of whom could be allies of the BLM movement, outside and feeling unheard.
We claim Carter County is better than those loud bigots. That they don’t represent us all. That most of us support racial equality and loathe discrimination, even if we have different ideas on how to achieve it. Now we need to prove it. We need to call out and condemn the racists among us.
Otherwise, those foul men, with the ugly language, they are going to represent the county for us. And we already know they have no problems speaking up.