Sunday, August 26, 2001

'N-word' protest

'I am not'

        What do you say to someone who is standing on a downtown street corner, holding a big poster-board sign that calls you a bigot? Yes, you — “Mr. or Mrs. (Your Name Here) is a BIGOT,” in bold, magic-marker letters a foot tall.

        I walked up and said, “It's not true.”

        The guy holding the sign that said “Peter Bronson is a bigot” seemed a little surprised. He was at a loss for words. I just smiled. Finally, he blinked and replied, “Is that right?”

        “Yes,” I said, “that's me, and it's not true.”

        He seemed like a nice enough guy who wanted to say, “Hey, someone just gave me this sign to carry. . .”

        As I was walking away, I thought of all the things I wished I had done and said.

        I wanted to say, “Whoah, wrong guy. I'm not a bigot. I'm not even on talk radio.”

        I wanted to stand next to him on the corner with my own poster-board sign that said, “I AM NOT.”

        I wanted to get him a picture to put on his sign — a snapshot of Tim Sullivan or Cliff Radel, just in case some wacko takes the picketer seriously and comes to the newsroom looking for that “bigot guy.”

        In a sane world, maybe I could explain to him that I was on vacation when the Enquirer ran the Aug. 4 “N-word” story that he and three or four other blacks were protesting about.

        I thought it was a legit story with a slightly overcooked headline. But even if I had been here, nobody would listen to me. I just plow a few acres in the south 40 where opinions are planted. I don't run the whole Enquirer farm.

        I tried to explain all that to city council candidate Ken Anderson, who was there with former mayor Dwight Tillery, carrying a sign that said something like “N-word is for Nazi Enquirer.”

        It was like trying to explain the rules of Scrabble to someone playing tag. And I was it.

        It's not the first time someone has mistaken me for the head cheese when bricks and flaming arrows are aimed at Enquirer news stories.

        Not me. Wrong guy.

        I have more than I can handle just defending the obnoxious things I write, without trying to defend all the crimes against the English language perpetrated by reporters.

        I am a few rungs down the ladder from the Ink-Wire skybox, but I get the abuse anyway. Just lucky, I guess. Usually, I don't complain. But three consecutive Fridays of “Bronson is a bigot” protests in front of our building are enough to make me rethink that whole “TGIF” thing.

        Three weeks of that, and even I'm beginning to wonder if Bronson is a bigot. For the record, I was not a bigot last time I checked. Heck, when I bumped into the guy with the bigot sign, I was on my way to buy a get-well card for my mother-in-law. Does that sound like Hitler?

        I guess it all depends on your definition of “bigot.”

        If you are one of those intolerant liberals who thinks “conservative” is a synonym for bigot, I'm your guy.

        If you think bigots are people who refuse to let the race card trump every argument, that's me.

        If you think a bigot is someone who dares to criticize black leaders along with whites, it's me again.

        I guess compared to stalkers, death threats and other unconventional “letters to the editor” I've received over the years, a few picketers are touch football.

        I don't want to get as paranoid as the inmates at City Hall.

        The picketers have a right to protest. Calling attention to them only makes them worse.

        Maybe the best thing to say to someone who babbles ridiculous racist insults is nothing. Just ignore them and they'll go away.

        At least that's what they said at City Council meetings just before the lunatics took over.

        Contact Enquirer Associate Editor Peter Bronson at 768-8301; fax: 768-8610; e-mail: Cincinnati.Com keyword: Bronson.


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