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Just last Friday I turned 54 – I know, I don#8217;t look anything close to that old and thank you for saying so.

And in my 54 years I have seen a lot of things and traveled to many places in this country and others.

And one would think that having lived for more than a half century, I would have just about seen it all.

But I am still amazed by many things I encounter each and every day.

One of those that particularly irks me is the existence of racism in this country in the 21st century.

If you don’t believe it is alive and well, just pick up a copy of Thursday’s News-Herald and read the lead story about a woman finding a white supremacist newsletter in her front yard.

And she isn’t the only one we have heard from on this issue.

Who are these people and why do they hate others so much?

There are those who say a person holds certain beliefs and morals based on a combination of heredity and environmental.

Poppycock I say.

A child is not born into this world hating anything. As they grow they see those around them acting in a certain fashion and they emulate them.

Pure and simple it is one’s environment that causes them to hate.

If you use racist words and hateful actions, then your children will do the same.

This door swings both ways. It just isn’t white parents turning their children into racists, it is black parents and other parents also.

As a child, I can only remember one time the “N” word was used in our house, and when my little brother uttered it I don’t believe he had any idea what he had just said. It was a word that he had heard before, and for whatever reason, found it appropriate at the time.

Of course he was summarily chastised for using that word and we all – the five of us – were told how it was wrong to use any word that denigrated others.

My parents were adamant about our respecting all people, regardless of color. And it is something I have tried to do all of my 54 years.

Now I am not going to insult anyone by claiming that some of my best friends are black, as many other whites will do. But I can say that I have worked, played, attended church and even broken bread side-by-side with people of color and other nationalities. And I never once thought about it as anything other than what it was.

The way I see it, I don’t work, play, worship or eat with black people. I work, play, worship and eat with people, and they just happen to be black, or Asian, or whatever. And I hope they see me the same way.

I also won’t insult you by saying I love all black people, or all Asians, or Jews, or all white people for that matter. I don’t.

But the reason I don’t like certain people is not because of the way they look; it is because of the way they act toward me and others.

I have come across a few folks in my five decades who don’t deserve the time of day from me because of what they have done. Perhaps they have cheated me out of money, lied to me or committed some other action that merits my disdain.

But I have never said I didn’t like somebody because of the color of their skin, their religion or the nationality. That would be wrong.

In my opinion, the time has come to stop all the name calling and stereotyping. We have come too far to go back to the way it used to be.

I am optimistic that we are moving in that direction. Unfortunately it is a slow process.

We still have quite a few people out there who believe they are superior to others, as evidenced by the aforementioned newsletter circulating the city. But the good news is there are fewer today than ever before.

The only way we are going to turn these attitudes around is for those who propagate the hate to leave us – basically die off – and we continue to teach our youngsters the right way to live together.

It might take another generation or two for a thorough cleansing of the population, but I think we can do it.

Douglas Grant is the managing editor of the Suffolk News-Herald. Contact him at doug.grant@suffolknewsherald.com