Hate for the other is a learned behavior. It is not something that we are born with. It is not taught in the sense that it is a deliberate educational matter. Rather, it is passed down from generation to generation. If your father and mother hated, that will be passed along to you. If your grandmother was a member of the Ku Klux Klan (as mine was), chances are that the hate for Blacks, Catholics and Jews that was one of the prime factors in her life will be passed along to her offspring. And it was — my mother and my aunts were all racists, as was my father, the son of a law enforcement officer who held racist beliefs.

As I have indicated earlier, somehow I escaped the racist beliefs of my parents. The hate of Black people by my parents was not due to any economic competition: My dad was a farmer, and my mom was the typical Southern housewife, and the Black population of our county was zero. No doubt, since I am a son of the South and the son of persons who looked down upon Black people, I do harbor some unknown racist tendencies. But, not only do I not know what those are, as far as I know I have never acted upon those tendencies.

Neither my sons nor my grandsons have racist beliefs — to the contrary, they participated in the Black Lives Matter march sponsored by the NAACP. One son is a mechanic, with his own garage, and it matters not to him the race of the person whose car he is working on.

While much was made of the recent rally by our president in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he did not mention the racial history of that community. Almost 100 years ago, a large group of white supremacists killed around 300 Black people and burned their prosperous businesses, thereby wiping out all the progress Black people had made in that community. But, while that happened a long time ago, chances are that those white racists’ beliefs were passed along to their sons and daughters, who in turn passed those beliefs along to their children. It takes a lot of people to kill 300 people. I have no doubt that those racists numbered in the thousands and their children and grandchildren number in the many thousands.

Same thing in this state. While the Joplin race riot of 1903 is a black mark on this state, the rest of the state was not innocent. Several lynchings took place in the Missouri Ozarks, as recently as 1901. While the perpetrators of those horrendous events are most likely dead, their children and grandchildren are not, and those deluded beliefs are now held by hundreds and thousands in the Ozarks region of this state. While the Ozarks are scenic, and the source of many trips by me, equality as a belief is not held by all residents there.

This town was not spared a lynching. In 1923, a Black man — James Scott — was pulled from his jail cell and hanged off the Stewart Road Bridge. While elected public officials tried to intervene, Scott was hanged nevertheless. Today, a memorial marker is at the spot, just south of Stewart Road and about one block west of Providence.

The lynching was conducted by what was described as a “mob,” which means that there were many individuals involved. Some of their beliefs, perhaps all of them, were handed down to their offspring and then their offspring.

Hate is a learned behavior. One must be taught to hate.


About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

Ken Midkiff, formerly the director of the Sierra Club Clean Water Campaign, is now chair of the city’s Environment and Energy Commission and serves on the board of directors of the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center.

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