Determined to defeat bigotry
Situated 51 miles south-west of Syracuse, New York, the tiny hamlet of New Berlin is reflective of many US small towns. Anthony Werner and his son Tony discovered a burning cross in their yard. A burning cross is one of the perverse symbols most often used by the Ku Klux Klan's hate-mongers to terrorise their victims. The burning cross is very often the symbolic prelude to an act of lethal violence.
Usually a burning cross can be found in the front yard of a house newly occupied by an African-American family seeking a better life in that endless quest to escape the squalor of poverty. Hate-
mongers use the terror associated with the burning cross to scare us (Blacks) out of what they self-
righteously consider to be their neighbourhood.
The irony in this particular cross burning is that the Werners are not black — they are white. You see, they have a friend whose name is Lee Brown. He is black and, as you might suspect in a society as racist as the United States, he is out of work and has been staying with the Werners while he seeks employment. We should not be surprised that Brown has been unsuccessful in finding a job in or around New Berlin.
The Werners have received at least two anonymous phone calls, obviously from some of their neighbours, who covertly admit that they hate blacks and want Brown to leave. A friend of the Werners, Sue Keene, quoted in the Louisville Defender, said, "It takes forever to be accepted into this community. There is no reason for this. This kid [referring to Brown] does nothing wrong."
Well-meaning lady that I suspect Keene is, it would seem she has forgotten that in the myopic vision of a racist bigot, Brown did all the wrong required of him when he was born black. In the eyes of the racist, Werner's crime is that he doesn't hate Lee Brown for being born black.
Having to constantly peer out their
windows, the Werners feel their home is under a state of silent siege. They have put up a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for placing and lighting the cross in their front yard.
State police captain Walt de Lap, the head of that department's Troop C, Bureau of Criminal Investigation, said that the bias crime team is investigating the case. Captain de Lap also said, "At this point in time we are investigating it as a bias related crime perpetrated by some ... bigot. There is no room in this world for people like that. They are excellent people to arrest. We like to do it."
Unfortunately, during all this turmoil Brown's father died, and of course he went to the family home in Rockland County, to be present at the funeral. Nevertheless, he said he plans to return to the Werner home.
Anthony Werner said of him, "He's more damned determined to be up here [New Berlin] than ever, and I'm more determined to have him here." We should all be proud and thankful that both men are so determined to stand tall against racism and bigotry.
[The writer is a prisoner on death row in the United States. He is happy to receive letters commenting on his columns. He can be written to at: Brandon Astor Jones, EF-122216, G2-51, GD&CC, PO Box 3877, Jackson, GA 30233, USA.]