By editorial board • 

Racist rant says something disturbing about all of us

She’s not racist at all.

That’s what Amber Rocco, arrested Dec. 28 for hurling vicious racial slurs at an African-American couple on Christmas Eve, told McMinnville Police Officer Robert Harmon.

Rocco’s comment, recorded in Harmon’s official report, is important because she may well believe it. Therein lies a shattering truth about racism, not only in Rocco but in our own collective subconscious.

It makes what happened in a McMinnville parking lot on Christmas Eve not merely an isolated incident in an otherwise pleasant community. It is a horrifying glimpse in a very disturbing mirror.

Rocco may well be the sort of person who never thinks so much as an unkind thought about African Americans. Well, almost never. That is the way of the human race. Most people are good, kind, decent, honorable and loving until they find a reason not to be.

When they become drunk on emotion in a volatile situation, whether with a loved one or a complete stranger, they often reach in the deepest recesses of their arsenal for their deadliest weapon.

When it comes to black people in relation to white people, we all know which precise weapon.

Most of us labor under the conceit we have risen above that word as the 21st century moves toward its second decade, but the fact that word doesn’t even need to be printed illustrates how deeply embedded it is in all of us.

It is the coiled serpent that lies caged in the back of our brains.

For some people, it just takes a rush of anger for the serpent to break free. These are people who could be the best of our friends and neighbors 99 percent of the time. Is a single moment of anger, expressed in a taboo word, really all that bad?

Yes, actually, it is.

We are what we stand for — when standing for something is the most difficult. You cannot say you are a kind and generous person yet look with disgust at the poor and indigent in our midst. You cannot say you aren’t a racist but use the most vile racist language when you’re angry.

What we see when we take a hard look will reveal who we truly are ... and not just who we would like to be.

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