Like cancer, racism is most dangerous when it is hidden. When it is overt, bigotry can at least be confronted. But insidious racism can exist in a community that prides itself on inclusion and tolerance.
The signs can be subtle, like the defacement of local Black Lives Matter lawn signs, or letters to the editor that marginalize the protest movement. At The Chronicle, we try to call out such behavior when we witness it, and while most of our readers are supportive, some have pushed back.
After our July 4 edition’s cover featured patriotic scenes with the headline, “And Justice For All,” we received an angry note from a subscriber calling us biased against conservative views. Maybe it was that headline, or maybe it was our coverage of the Black Lives Matter protests that drew thousands of people in Harwich and Orleans.
Last week, we wrote a story after someone defaced local signs with promotional stickers for a right-wing hate group. The stickers, 21 of which were removed by department of public works crews from signs in downtown Chatham, contained a link to the Patriot Front, which celebrates the “pan-European identity” of true Americans. Having read the Patriot Front’s manifesto, one reader dismissed the hate group label given the organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center, saying “they just appreciate their heritage. Just because they’re White doesn't mean it's hate speech.”
The reader seemed to be upset that we publicizing the hate stickers at all, rather than treating them as mere graffiti. Which got us wondering: what’s the harm of bringing such incidents to light? Some would say it's better to ignore them. But if the only thing on the stickers was “KKK,” would people feel the same?
Just as we wouldn’t ignore signs of cancer in our bodies, we can’t ignore the presence of racism in our community, shameful as it is. For the Lower Cape, the challenge is to eradicate that hatred before it metastasizes.