I was born and raised in Lovettsville in the 1980s. I’m 45 years old. At the time, it had a population of 600 people, two gas stations, three stores and a couple churches. No fast food, two restaurants, a community center, and farms everywhere.
And it was quite racist.
I can spin yarns of racist tropes, town legends about which trees African Americans were lynched, rumors of certain large buildings being a meeting place for the Klan and much more. We heard racist jokes all the time. It was standard fare. Some told them enthusiastically. Others chuckled awkwardly to fit in. Some did nothing. I’m not too proud to say that for many years, I did not stand up to this bigotry.
The Confederacy was revered by our elders. Adults everywhere lauded the superior tacticians on the southern side as the reason the war lasted as long as it did. Virginia legends like Lee, Jackson and Longstreet took on their own aura of invincibility, as did horsemen like Jeb Stuart and John S. Mosby.
And as I remember, the few black folks in town didn’t say much. In elementary school, the janitor whom we all loved was black: Giles Moten. He was a Korean War veteran who injured his throat in the war. He may have been the first black man I met. He loved us and we loved him. But, outside of the school building, he wasn’t ever the same toward us. I never understood that …
As we aged, we learned to accept this stuff as a low hum in the background. It was noise. Both of my older sisters dated black men in high school. I never knew it was a big deal because our parents didn’t care who any of us dated. We were the lone liberals in a sea of … well, you know. But, there were stares and whispers.
And now, almost 30 years later, Loudoun County still proudly displays her bigotry. On Sunday, June 7, 2020, a dozen counter protesters armed to the teeth with semi-automatic weapons, shotguns and side arms stood on the steps of the gun shop in Purcellville menacing peaceful protesters. More than 1,000 beautiful and peaceful protesters standing up for black Americans against systemic racism and oppression. And there on the street are angry, white people hurling virulent insults at the marchers, chanting “All Lives Matter” back to “Black Lives Matter.” They had no interest in unity. Their goal was intimidation.
When some of these counter protesters were confronted online about their presence, they forcefully denied being there, then tried to justify their presence there. Which is it? If you don’t want to be considered a racist or a bigot, don’t do racist and bigoted things. It’s very simple. Support peaceful causes that promote inclusion. But, if you are going to attempt to intimidate peaceful marchers, expect some blowback.
Loudoun County has a history of racism. Many people I’ve known my entire life will likely read this and express sincere displeasure that I’m saying the quiet part out loud. But it needs to be said – if for no other reason than because I didn’t say enough before.
Do better, Loudoun. Confront your hate. Root out intolerance. Accept everyone as equal. The Civil War is over. The good guys won. Deal with it.
Josh Stack grew up in Lovettsville and currently lives in Leesburg.