UPDATED: Chilling Reports by Students: Classmates With Guns Talk of Shooting Obama — And Racism in Wasilla, Alaska

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By: Greg Mitchell

Here at E&P, starting over a week ago, we have been chronicling local anti-Obama incidents, many far from the national spotlight, usually involving racist attacks of a verbal, physical or even criminal nature. We are following this largely from the Web pages of smaller daily or weekly newspapers.

A few days ago, the Associated Press and some other news outlets picked up on the disturbing. But at Editor & Publisher we are still receiving tips and personal accounts every day, often from small towns in both red and blue states.

Just this morning, for example, the Mount Desert Islander weekly in Maine reported that a third effigy of a black man had been found hanging from a tree in the area since the election. This was was in Somesville, following reports of others in Tremont and Bar Harbort. The paper observes: “State police also are investigating the incidents, which are believed to be in response to the election of Sen. Barack Obama as president.”

Here is the latest note to us today from a student in Iowa (I have her name and address but won’t release it here), a state Obama carried rather easily. It is much in line with reported incidents of other school kids, some as young as 7 or 8, talking about “assassinating” Obama. Of course, they couldn’t carry that out themselves but what is chilling is that they are likely just repeating language or threats they hear at home.

Here is that email:

“I’m not sure who to email on this, but there have been several derogatory things said about Obama in our school, and one of them got a student suspended. I go to a school in a little town called Letts, Iowa. We are pretty down home, country road farm kids out here. But never, in my 11 years at the school, have I ever heard the conversation take such a negative turn.

“The remark that the student was suspended for was this, “Well, it’s called the White House for a reason. We need to get that God damn N—– out of there.”

“There were other remarks, mostly by students who hunt. They were discussing how far a shotgun could shoot, and decided that they could get to a high enough vantage-point to shoot Obama from at least 2 miles away, without anyone ever knowing where the shot came from. ‘Another Kennedy’ they were saying.”

Last night a reader tipped us off to an incident in another Obama-friendly state, Michigan, in the town of Buchanan. Members of the South County Democratic Club woke up Saturday to find their building vandalized with swastikas and racist comments, spray painted on the side of the structure. These kind of incidents have been too common to list all of them.

And to show the true national, if scattered, character of this, I woke up this morning to find this editorial in my local paper, the Journal News, here in deep-blue New York State. The official is from the city of Ossining (the TV home of Don Draper of “Mad Men”):

“Anyone naive enough to believe that Barack Obama’s landmark victory would mean an end to racial bigotry and stupidity need look no farther than Ossining for proof positive that we still have a ways to go. Americans made history by electing Obama the first black president; what they didn’t do, by any stretch, is wipe away years of ingrained racial prejudice, insensitivity and, once again, stupidity.

“Thomas Reddy, assistant village fire chief, deserved a swift boot to the curb for circulating a ‘knock-knock’ joke that ends with a caricature of Obama and the words ‘Eyes Yo New Prezident.’ As a former police detective and top fire official – someone who many people want to respect and admire – Reddy is supposed to be a leader in racially diverse Ossining, not an embarrassment. He’s supposed to set the bar for better conduct, not lower it. He let all of us down.”

From AP today comes this from Milwaukee: “Some local firefighters unions are calling for the resignation of the state union president over a racist comment regarding President-elect Barack Obama.

“Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin Local 311 president Joe Conway in Madison says Rick Gale admitted using a racial slur the day after Obama was elected as the first African-American president of the United States. The PFFW executive board adopted a motion calling for an apology, education and counseling at a special meeting Saturday in Fond du Lac called on the incident.

“Gale has agreed to issue a written apology to union members.”

UPDATE: The weekly based in Wasilla, Alaska, which boosted hometowner Sarah Palin throughout the election campaign, provided column space this week to a local student who alleged anti-Obama racial comments the day after his election. Here’s an excerpt from The Frontiersman op-ed by Waverli Raine.
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Finally the campaign was over and I was actively supporting our new president, even though I knew I would be vastly out numbered at school. I expected complaints and qualms about the new president, but I was not prepared for the flat-out racist remarks said openly in the halls and classrooms. I was appalled. While I sat at my desk trying to do my work I could hear my fellow classmates:

?I think we should kill Obama,? one said.

?I hope someone comes up and shoots him in the head,? another would say.

?I hate Obama ? he?s black.?

On went the racist words for the full 80 minutes of that class. Angered, I began to think of the injustice of it all and the ignorance of the students I was surrounded by. I wondered where they learned to be so hateful, and I wondered why the teacher never stepped in – why no adult, no student, including myself, had the guts to cut in and say it was not OK. Because it?s never OK for intolerance.
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