I suppose the best way to apologize is to just come out and say: I messed up. And I’m sorry.
I sin a lot. But this one is hurting not just me, but my family, my staff and my community.
Unless you have the honor of not being on Facebook, you probably have seen the post that has gone viral around here about a pair of Tweets I sent out, one from April and one from back in 2016.
If you’re not a regular on Twitter, it’s often a political food fight. And I have relished it. I feel passionately about politics, and am embarrassed to say I’ve sent over 100,000 Tweets in about 10 years on the platform.
The 2016 Tweet was a response to conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. He was talking about what a rotten guy President Lyndon Baines Johnson was. Even Johnson’s admirers say he was racist, and one biographer quoted him saying that by signing the Civil Right Act Johnson would have “(the “n” word) voting for Democrats for 200 years.”
My Tweet repeated this quote, because I wanted people to know that about Johnson. I was taught in public schools growing up that he was a great guy. After getting my minor in history at UGA, I discovered he wasn’t.
But that doesn’t matter.
I was wrong in what I posted.
Colossians 4:6 says “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Obviously, I was aiming to get a reaction rather than letting my words show love and grace.
The second Tweet, from April, was also a response to someone else. Writer Greg Pollowitz had posted that a contestant on “Jeopardy” was asked which player broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.
“Babe Ruth,” he said, unbelievably. Of course, Babe Ruth is white and had nothing to do with breaking the color barrier. That was Jackie Robinson.
In a very poor attempt at humor, I Tweeted that Baby Ruths are chocolate. That was ugly and distasteful. I didn’t use graceful words. I was being dumb.
Fast forward to this week, when our country is riven with riots and racial strife. The horrible death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has been a shock to our consciences. And for these Tweets to be brought out at this time makes me ashamed and embarrassed.
When we bought the Reporter in 2007, I brought my grandfather Barney Davis to Forsyth where he had coached football, taught math and driven the bus at Mary Persons from 1946-1951. Like our own, his generation didn’t always embrace racial tolerance. Then in his 80s, he would tell me stories of driving the school bus all around Monroe County to pick up kids for school.
“Back then,” said granddaddy, “we would go right by the black homes but we didn’t pick them up. And we could have.”
My grandfather went on to be principal at Norcross High School during integration. Looking back after that progress, I was glad that he could see how wrong segregation was.
In Forsyth, locals tells me that integration of Monroe County went much better than many surrounding communities. While Griffin and Barnesville suffered some protests and friction, Forsyth has had good race relations. And all of them credit that to another football coach, Dan Pitts. He commanded respect, and insisted on treating black and white the same. The man who prayed before those football games, the Rev. Adolph Parsons, also played a big role as a peacekeeper. He too was respected by the entire community. I realize how far short I have fallen from their example.
I have, this week, learned a lesson.
I have resolved to be more of a peacemaker. I’ve had enough of division and hate. My caustic political Tweets and commentaries do nothing to build community.
I ask you to forgive me, and I plan to do better. Some of you will not be able to forgive me right now. I understand. There’s a lot of hurt around. But we have to live together. And we need to love one another. I can only control myself. That’s what I pledge to do.