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I grew up in the 1950s in a small town in northwestern Ohio. One black family had children in the local school but aside from school the family apparently took care to remain invisible.

Racial issues never rose to the surface of open discussions around town. But after working all day and finishing supper, Dad frequently went on a rant about black people being too lazy to work and living off welfare. I suspected there was a good reason for what appeared to Dad to be laziness. So, one evening I asked him if he would work next to a black man. He answered with a "no" so emphatic that he turned red in the face.

He must have connected that his prejudice precluded blacks from finding work because his rants eased off after that. By the time he retired in the 1980s, he was working side-by-side with black men.

One morning years later, when we were alone, he explained to me how dangerous it is to work with red-hot steel and how the timing of hand-offs has to be exact to prevent sudden death. He had no complaints about the men he had once called “lazy” and stressed that absolute trust was essential among crew members.

I am sick at heart that we now have a president who has decided that stirring racial animus is the way to win re-election. I know what he would nickname me in a tweet but I am going to say it: The curse of our racial conflict did not arise because of any character flaw in black people. White people have built all the structures that function to keep black people “in their place” and it is up to white people to own that and change it.

Barbara Minich, Decatur

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