"These hands are symbolic of our Higher Power and our faith therein. They represent the intrinsic value and the significance of our struggles in all forms of injustices through racism. Through these hands we were able to perservere and stand steadfast in the midst of the storm. Without these hands we would be rendered helpless. We will continue to pray with these hands to guide us in the right direction for solutions, for strength, power, and the courage to overcome racism in America."

First, let me say that I hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving and those that traveled made it safely to and from their destinations with traveling mercies. This is a traditional time of year where we gather with family and friends to reflect on a time of love and thanksgiving. This is a happy time of the year. However, it is also a time when that reflection takes us to places where we remember loved ones that are no longer here. My take is that we shouldn’t have to wait for holidays to express love and thanksgiving; it should be expressed all the time.

The hostile and negative push back on recordings of individual stories of racism has no room for moving forward for resolutions to racism in our society. These accounts of personal untold stories reflect that racism is still very much alive.

This story is about Barbara Langhorne. Barbara is a lifetime resident of Riverhead. She attended and graduated in the Riverhead school system. She is a mother and grandmother with two wonderful daughters and a grandson. She retired from the Brookhaven National Laboratory with 36 years of service. This is her personal account of being a victim of a blatant racial incident that occurred in Riverhead.

Barbara stated that on Feb. 2, 2013, she was leaving Stop and Shop supermarket in Riverhead and was abruptly cut off by an elderly white couple driving a black PT Cruiser with a Mattituck volunteer FD sticker on it. This forced Barbara to run up on the sidewalk to prevent her from hitting a pedestrian, an elderly woman, who later confirmed that the PT Cruiser did cut Barbara off.

I guess this wasn’t enough. Barbara states the couple hopped out of their car and started calling her all kind of niggers and bitches. They even started calling her mother and father niggers. The couple stated they were not wrong. The elderly lady, who was also white, stated that she saw everything and that they did cut her off. The couple told the woman to shut up, she didn’t have anything to do with this. Barbara told them she has no respect for them because they didn’t respect themselves. She said they replied that “all you niggers are alike” and “you probably used your food stamps” in the store. Barbara replied that she works every day and they were probably white trailer park trash. Barbara stated at this point they started walking towards her still spewing the nigger word. She told them, “If you put your hands on me, you leave me no choice to do what I have to do.” At that point a white man in a pick-up truck with a Confederate flag sticker on his truck, entered the scene, urging them to “beat the nigger up.”

Barbara said that this incident hurt her so bad, she went home and cried. Barbara didn’t know what to do. She didn’t get the license plate, nor did she call the police. That Monday she posted on her FB page about the incident. There was a great deal of positive comments, from white and black alike. To add insult to injury, as fate would have it, there was the negative push back. The push back came from a white gentleman. This a hate monger. Barbara stated that she didn’t know the man. Barbara shared with me a screenshot of his comments. His push back was very hostile and negative.

Barbara did some research on him and learned he was a correction officer in the Riverhead jail. She went to the jail and spoke with the warden, who referred her to their internal affairs office. When she met with the gentlemen from internal affairs, she brought the transcripts of the man’s comments. One of the men at internal affairs stated that they already had the transcript and a thick dossier on this correction officer. He told her they had been following this officer for a while and learned he was making these comments while on the job. (According to a lieutenant in the sheriff’s department, the officer was suspended for 30 days without pay while the investigation was ongoing. The result of the investigation and any disciplinary action against the officer were not made public.)

I have a couple of direct quotes from the hateful rhetoric of this man. When asked to define what he meant by “they” his reply was “THEY are Niggers!!!! He goes on to say Happy now? Another line is “you all STILL think I’m a bigot and a racist? WTF? You may not be the N-word but you definitely are ignorant azzholes.” Another comment related to the couple in the car was “I hardly believe that these ELDERLY people are bully’s. Maybe they are IRKED when they clip coupons and eat cat food, then they get in-line behind someone buying Steak using a Benefits Card! Then getting in their new Escalade to drive home, while they are driving their 12 year old Chevy.”

Can you imagine what kind of treatment the inmates may be subjected to?

Why do people find it necessary to push back with such negativity and hostility on the truth? Now, this is where I have to scratch my head. This is what I don’t understand and maybe some of my readers can comment on this. Is it a psyche thing? Is it an anger management thing? Is it attention seeking action? What do people like this have to be angry about? If anybody should be angry, it’s the person telling their story. Are these stories constant reminders of the injustice of a subordinate culture over an insubordinate culture? I am sitting here racking my brain trying to figure this out. Why do these people have so much hate within themselves? What is their life like? Are they happy? Personally, I feel that they are missing out on so much in life and living carrying such a burden.

This will not stop me from telling the stories of people who are victims of racism. It will only bolster my attempt to get at the root of racism and how to overcome this disease. I am not, but could be The Spook Who Sat by the Door, saying I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings about The Souls of Black Folks. Keeping that in mind, I found a better way. There is more than one way to skin a cat.

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Lawrence Street is an educator and an advocate for education reform focusing on children with special needs. He has taught in Riverhead and New York City and held education administration positions in the U.S. Virgin Islands. A native of Riverhead, he has always been a proponent for social justice and community awareness.