Saturday, April 4, 2009
Not A Racist Anymore
Elwin Wilson a 72 year old man from South Carolina is seeking forgiveness for his racist actions over the long course of his life. He has harassed and insulted black people for many years of his life. During the civil rights movement, he was a part of groups trying to break up lunch counter sit ins and other nonviolent protests. He burned crosses, hung nooses and has thrown things at black people. In 1961, during the freedom rides, Mr. Wilson brutally beat a black man at a bus stop. However in the late 70’s and eighties, Mr. Wilson worked with black people and even attended a former all black college. His anger had died down somewhat but that hate was always lurking underneath he says. It was not uncommon for Mr. Wilson to insult and harass black people as late as 1999. When asked about where his racist views came from in the first place; he says that it must have been the people he hung around with; it was like a sport Mr Wilson said. According to Mr. Wilson, it wasn’t his parents doing; they treated everyone equal he says.
Now at age 72 and rather sick, Mr. Wilson says that his hate has all gone away, and he feels remorse about actions over the years. Mr. Wilson cites religion as a major factor in his change of thinking. It was after the presidential inauguration that Mr. Wilson decided to start apologizing to those he has insulted or hurt. So Since January Mr. Wilson has been spending much time publicly and personally apologizing to all those people. Included in this group is the man that he beat in 1961. The man that Mr. Wilson beat is civil right leader John Lewis who is currently a congressman from Georgia. Many have met with and accepted his apologies including Mr. Lewis. There are some that preferred not to and question his motives for apologizing.
Mr. Wilson became a racist during the 1960’s and events of the civil rights movement. He lived in an area of the country that was clearly divided along two lines at that time. He got so caught up with racism and hate of that time period; it became a part of his belief system. Today society has changed a great deal and so has Mr. Wilson. Racism is embedded in the structure of our society and we have a long way to go before it is gone. While Mr. Wilson cites religion has a reason for changing his views. But, if the society and culture of where Mr Wilson lived helped to create his racist attitudes, then it may have played an important role in changing his mind about it as well.
photo of Wilson apologizing to Rep. Lewis from http://imgs.sfgate.com/c/pictures/2009/02/05/ba-segregationis_0499759909.jpg