My grandfather, Walter McPeak, was an blatant racist who screamed obscenities and racial slurs at any black person on television and refused to sell cars to African Americans when he worked at the old Thomas Ford dealership in Floyd. He would walk across the street to avoid a black person and sprinkled his conversation with racial slurs.
Some say racism was more common in those days but recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, part of the St. Louis area, show rampant discrimination and discrimination still exist. Amy and I lived in the St. Louis area for 12 years. We know the Ferguson area and the gunning down of a black youth by a white police officer disturbs, but does not surprise, us.
In nearby Dugspur, the Kanawha Valley Arena — a motorcycle and rodeo attraction — is owned and operated by Tommy Brown, an open advocate of segregation and supporter of the Ku Klux Klan. He talks of such attitudes with pride There are public officials in Floyd County who have participated in events at the arena — some with full knowledge of the feelings of the owner but others who said they were not aware of them at the time. I attended the first motorcycle rally and a few other events at the arena but later made the decision to avoid the establishment in the future when I became aware Brown’s attitudes
I heard the “n-word” uttered in casual conversation last week in a local restaurant. A racist slogan adorned the motorcycle helmet hanging on the handlebars of a Harley parked on Locust Street. Was it the motrcycle of a local owner? I don’t know. I hope not.
Sadly, racism remains among us and it is not limited to African Americans. Anti-Muslim rhetoric, which is both racist and religiously biased, is just as shameful So are comments about Hispanics.
My racist grandfather was also a founding member of Slate Mountain Presbyterian Church. Does that give him a pass?
I despised the racism of Walter McPeak but I still loved him as my maternal grandfather.
We often compromise our own principles, especially when it comes to family. We conveniently look the other way.
That is not an easy question to answer.