The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


November 2, 2008

Racism is alive and well in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania town, Coatesville, is notorious for the 1911 murder of Zachariah Walker, the last man lynched in Pennsylvania. Walker, who was under arrest for killing a white steel company guard, was dragged from a Coatesville hospital and burned alive in a field just south of the city while a crowd of 1,600 people watched the black man's grisly fate.

As horrific as that might seem, and as much as we'd like to believe racism in Pennsylvania is gone, this year's election has assured us that racism-- and race-based hate -- are still alive and well in the Keystone State.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit specializing in tolerance, lists 33 hate groups in Pennsylvania. Included in that list are two Keystone State Skinhead groups in State College and Harrisburg and four KKK groups scattered across the state. The list does not include a newly formed KKK chapter in Franklin County.

Additionally, Pennsylvania has seen a large number of racial epitaphs at political rallies across the state.

On Oct. 11, a McCain/Palin supporter flaunted a stuffed monkey wearing an Obama sticker in Johnstown. While others in the crowd joined in screaming, "kill him" and "off with his head," and even verbally attacking a black member of the media, calling him the "N" word and telling him to "sit down, boy."

At an Oct. 28 McCain/Palin rally in Pottsville, a demonstrator chanted "Bomb Obama!" repeatedly. When a cameraman inquired what that meant, he said, "Get rid of him. I ... when he gets in the White House ..." Pointing his finger like a gun and mimicking the sound of a shot being fired.

Another attendee to the rally, holding a Democrat for McCain poster, simply stated he'd never vote for a black man. Period. "I don't want to sound racist here," said another participant, "but I do not want a black man running my country."

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