Editorial: Being recognized as a ‘racist’

A result of sweating it out

Column By Walt Mares

Walt Mares

It was sometime in the late 1970s and I was still in my 20s. I worked for a newspaper in Alamosa, Colorado. Quite often I would go for a lunch hour run on North River Road along the Rio Grande. It was a three-mile loop and sometimes I would run it twice.

One day, I did the six-mile trip and it was quite hot around 85 degrees. In high altitude Alamosa, that constitutes a heatwave.

As I approached the end of my run, I stopped at the Ace Inn for a glass of water. A guy called my name. He was someone I was vaguely acquainted with.

“So, you like to run, eh?” he asked. I thought that was quite obvious The T-shirt I was wearing was soaked with sweat. My hair was soaking wet as was my face. Before I could answer, the guy said “Yeah, I saw you in a race a couple of weeks ago. Yeah, you know I got a cousin in California who likes to run. He’s a racist, too.”

I was taken aback by being referred to as a racist but why bother quibbling with the guy. I answered saying, “Well, that’s nice.” The fellow made a few more comments such as how it must be to do a lot of running to become a “good racist.”

When I left the restaurant I laughed to myself about being called a racist and did not give it much more thought other than to tell a few fellow runners about the incident. They, too, had a good laugh about it.

Today, I think about what being called a racist means, even if it were somehow told jokingly. Today, there would not be any humor or joking about it.

The ugly truth about racism has come to the forefront of our national dialogue. A light has been shed upon it and there is no longer a rock under which it can be hidden, no matter how big the rock may be.

It is interesting that the Civil Rights marches of the 1960s, which occurred more than a half-century ago, was only a candle as compared to the spotlights that are exposing the ugliness of what has been hiding in the darkest of shadows: racism, bigotry, prejudice, and hatred.

Bigotry is among the darkest of realities. It does not have to involve racism. It can be a matter of class distinction.  A false sense of superiority. The haves looking down upon the have-nots. The do-haves want to keep that do-not- haves in their supposedly rightful place. 

‘How dare those riff-raff think they’re as good as us. Harrumpf!’

Perhaps the demonstrations we are seeing today will somehow evolve into something that addresses not only racism but also many other forms of prejudice. 

That, of course, remains to be seen as the world races forward in what direction no one can be sure of.

Hatred is a poison that can be deadly, even to one’s self. Not only can it result in harm or death to others but it can become a sickness of the soul that pollutes perception of reality.  

In the meantime, I wish that I could again be the type of “racist” that the fellow in Alamosa referred to.  But that cannot be because I have had two knee replacement operations and can no longer run.  

What I am sure I can still do to again become a “racist” is to be swift in recognizing what I can do is to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

 Meanwhile, Godspeed to all.

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