Ad hoc group wants residents to feel safe
Proclaiming “hate has no home in Rappahannock,” some 75 residents from all walks of life — black and white, Christian and Jew — came together this week in the county seat of Washington to denounce the Ku Klux Klan, which days earlier dropped dozens of hate-filled fliers on doorsteps from Sperryville to Flint Hill.
“This was all by word of mouth,” said organizer Kit Goldfarb, who was surprised by the Monday morning turnout at the Theatre at Washington, where nationally produced yard signs repudiating hatred — “Hate Has No Home Here” — were being distributed to some residents..
While Goldfarb insisted the informal gathering was not a “meeting,” it quickly turned into one.
At least four county church leaders showed up — Father Horace “Tuck” Grinnell, pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in Washington; Rev. H. Miller Hunter, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Washington; Rev. Russ Savage, minister of the Unitarian Universalists of the Blue Ridge in Sperryville; and Rev. Bessie Taylor Jett, pastor of the Church Without Walls Ministry in Huntly — who all agreed to carry a message of love and acceptance to their pulpits and congregations.
“I look forward . . . to spreading the word within the church community,” said Father Tuck. “This gives us a golden opportunity to go beyond. They gave us a gift in a way, the Ku Klux Klan, because it gives us a chance to come out of the closets ourselves to talk about how we’re not for hate. I’m hopeful this can bear good fruit.”
Goldfarb, who is Jewish, agreed.
“We want to show that our community supports all of our residents and our visitors and our workforce here, regardless of who they are, and that the community is coming together on that,” she said. “And we also want to make sure that people feel safe here. So that people know that their friends are behind them, that the county is behind them.”
Goldfarb explained the reason she became concerned by the flier drops “is they were targeting Jews. And I am Jewish. And it’s from the Klan. And I grew up in Mobile, Alabama, so I grew up in a Klan atmosphere. And I’ve seen Klan marches, and I’ve seen the fear and the destruction. And, in fact, the last lynching in the United States was in Mobile in 1994. And while the Klan is on the decline now, white supremacy isn’t necessarily.
“But I also want to feel comfortable that anybody who might feel vulnerable that whatever we’re doing is not making them feel more vulnerable,” she added. “We need to make sure . . . we’re not drawing more attention to us [as a county]. Because as we saw in Charlottesville the [supremacy groups] didn’t get a lot of attention the first time, [so] they came back a second time and someone was killed.”
Rev. Hunter, who similarly grew up in Alabama and recalled the Klan “openly raising money on the streets of my hometown,” echoed Goldfarb by saying it was important not to “magnify” publicity for hate groups like the KKK, who he labeled “mean people.”
Rev. Jett, who is African American, called Monday’s gathering a “wonderful thing,” while Rev. Savage said that the hate-filled culture that reared its ugly head in Rappahannock County provided an “opportunity for dialogue.”
The latter Sperryville minister told this newspaper that already his church, in the wake of the flier distribution, recited this past Sunday a “Litany of Inclusion” with one response: “The color of your skin does not determine your worth in the human family.”
For his part, Rev. Savage said he was “disheartened by all expressions of hatred and exclusion, especially those based on faith and race.”
At least three board members of the NAACP were also on hand representing five local counties, including Rappahannock. One NAACP official from Culpeper asked to be provided with copies of the two versions of fliers that were dropped in the county so he could forward them to the state NAACP as a matter of record.
The fliers, placed in plastic bags and weighed down with bird seed, were randomly tossed Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 28, into the driveways of numerous homes in Sperryville, Washington and along Fodderstack Road to Dearing Road in Flint Hill. Additional fliers, published by a North Carolina-based KKK group, showed up the same day in Page and Fauquier counties.