OPINION: Racism doesn't have a place in Sikeston, in the nation

Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Chris Pobst

I thought about opening this with a funny lead-in. You know, a witty remark or two that might lighten the mood. Ease right on into it, some might say.

But this is a Band-aid over the sore situation. You have to grit your teeth and rip it right off.

I came across a story that had Sikeston in the headline while browsing through my various social media news feeds Sunday night. Naturally, I push my finger to the link and check it out. It was a story about a march in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which is similar to the event community members have had for as long as I can remember right along our streets of Sikeston. It's always peaceful. Never harmful. It usually spreads a message of trying to curb the disturbing trend of violence in our town while at the same time honoring the life of one of this country's greatest leaders.

This time, though, community members added another purpose to the march. They wanted to bring awareness and announce their intentions of changing the name of Sikeston's Main Street to Martin Luther King Dr.

Marches like this always serve as a reminder to me of just how revered King Jr., was. The eloquent speaker who changed hearts, minds and this country with words of love and tolerance. I used to think it was an occasion to celebrate how much things have changed since his march on Washington, where he so beautifully debuted his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

All the good that drums up inside my mind vanished when I ventured into the comments section of the story.

"Ridiculous!," one poster wrote.

"Who do they think they are," wrote another.

The outrage stemmed from citizens having the audacity to even want such a thing. One of the more outrageous things to me was combing through the typos and incoherent dribble that spilled from their misinformed comments while nestled safely behind a tablet or phone screen.

"I would expect this from Sikeston," another commented.

"Hey!!! We're not ALL idiots here lol," one replied back.

The ignorance was thick.

Members of Sikeston's Jubillee House of Prayer met with Larry McClellon, who is the CEO of And Justice For All, this morning and marched through Moore Street, then College Street where they hit North Main. It's not the same group that has sponsored this march for the past 30 years, but I can safely assume on Sunday night that their march would go rather smoothy.

The main assumption among the comment section gaggle was just because a group of primarily black people came together for a march and a purpose, that a riot was in Sikeston's future.

"Why not Stab and shoot blv. or Al Sharpton way," said another.

"No welfare check and dope on main street they won't stay long."

"They better stay out of the way..."

By the way, that last one was when I picked up my laptop and started writing.

If you can pierce through the unimaginable hatred that oozes from these comments, you see the exact same thing all those years ago that King Jr.,and so many others like him fought against -- ignorance.

I imagine lots of them (trust me, there were a lot more) were trying their hardest to get a laugh from the others and I'm sure they thought they succeeded.

I didn't laugh. And I'm pretty sure the degrading and hurtful remarks didn't crack a smile from you either. If you're like me, who truly embraces the idea of a tolerant and hatred/violence free Sikeston, you hurt. You were heartbroken.

I didn't type out those very real comments for shock value. I wanted to show why there's still citizens who march.

In Sikeston. 53 years after King, Jr., did the same.

Whether you think changing a street name is important or not isn't the issue, although some used a harmless suggestion as a mask to spew hate. I'd like to think most of us can see through what was really going on and said a prayer for the city we call home.

Racism in the country is still very much alive and, obviously, we don't have to look far to see it. Maybe it's time the people of Sikeston rip off that Band-aid disguised as a shield that blinds us from what's still present and let this very real wound heal in the open.

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