Times Writers Group — Racism lives in your own back yard

(Originally published in the St. Cloud Times, April 21, 2005)

By Wasim Ahmad
St. Cloud Times

During the first few months I moved to St. Cloud, the news stories scared me.

In September, a now-defunct (thankfully) white power music label called Panzerfaust Records, based out of a Twin Cities suburb, was direct mailing “pro-white” CDs to thousands of teen-agers nationwide.

The discs contained songs such as “White Supremacy” and “Hate Train Rolling.” Their goal was to distribute these CDs among children at schools and parks — anywhere they could drum up support for their agenda.

About the same time and more close to home, Travis Brown, the girls basketball coach at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School had racist messages spray-painted across the garage of the house where he was staying, twice in one month.

Before the first incident, he had an anonymous letter delivered to him suggesting he resign from his coaching position at the school.

By the way, Brown is black.

The incident scared him enough that he found a different residence in St. Cloud shortly after.

I read those stories and thought to myself, “What have I gotten myself into?”

I’ll admit, even in a place as racially diverse as my former home of New York, I got harassed just for being brown.

I remember growing up as a kid and walking home from the bus stop every day to the shouts of my not-so-neighborly neighbors yelling racial slurs out the window. I’ve been on the receiving end, and I empathize.

But after those two articles in the newspaper, I didn’t read about it anymore. I didn’t see much about racism around the area, and anything anyone had to say about me was said behind my back. I breathed a sigh of relief.

It took one letter in our own Readers’ Views to bring all of that insecurity back.

In a March 13 letter titled, “Persecution shows U.S. speech isn’t free,” the writer, who lives in St. Cloud, revealed he was a member of Stormfront, a national white pride group.

I looked at the group’s Web site, not because I was interested in its ideologies, but because I wanted to see who could be living in my town, on my street or even down the hall from my apartment.

What I read shocked me. My fingers literally trembled at the keyboard, a shiver went down my spine, and I became that kid again — the one who walked home and wondered what the “neighbor” was going to say today.

Reading any of the messages on the forums, the mindset of the writers becomes immediately clear — anyone who is non-white, Jewish, homosexual or anyone else who doesn’t fit into their definition of “white” is immediately a lower class of person. Any attack or crime perpetrated by a non-white person upon a white person is an attack on the entire white race. It’s immediately a racial issue.

The group tries to define racism on its Web site, and talks about being labeled as “racist” because they support their own people — white people.

No. I’ll tell you what makes these people racists.

What’s racist is when people post Ku Klux Klan photos on the Web to share with other racists, who respond to those photos with the words “sweet” and “cool.”

What makes these people racist are the messages posted supporting the murder of the husband and mother of a federal judge who sentenced a white supremacist to jail in Chicago.

What’s racist are polls on the forum of this same organization that ask, “Do you believe the Jew is the ‘natural enemy’ of the White race?”

That’s why members of Stormfront are labeled racist. What they call pride in their culture is anything but. It’s an organization dedicated to hatred of other cultures.

After the epithets directed at him, Travis Brown said, “I’m not really trusting of people right now.”

After reading a letter like that, from someone in my own town, neither am I.

Wasim Ahmad is a copy editor at the St. Cloud Times. His column is published the third Thursday of the month. E-mail him at wahmad@stcloudtimes.com.

© 2005 St. Cloud Times, St. Cloud, Minn