"I want you to turn around, look me in the eye and say that again," I demanded. This time he said it with defiant gusto, "I said Thurgood Marshall is a leftist, communist, radical pig." It was Andy Ashcroft, son of then-Governor John Ashcroft.
Teach Your Children Well: How Ashcroft Poisoned his Son's Mind
My story dates back to the days when John Ashcroft led the state of Missouri, and Mel Carnahan served just a heart beat away as Lt. Governor. The summer of 1991 to be exact.
I was working as the assistant hall director for the 1000 Hills Summer Youth Program at Truman State University (then Northeast Missouri State University). Each summer the university hosted many camps and academic programs for the state and area youth, and we often shared facilities such as cafeterias.
You'll remember that in the summer 1991 Thurgood Marshall announced his retirement from the Supreme Court. My staff had gone off to class, while I was still hovered over my scrambled eggs, sausage and the morning paper. My campers were at their respective activities as well, and the cafeteria was filled with students from the Joseph Baldwin Academy and the Kirk Institute. Brainiacs, my campers called them. I let them. Mostly because they were just loud. Intelligence doesn't seem to remove that trait from a junior high schooler. They were disrupting my morning newspaper read. Then I overhead this from the next table:
"Who is Thurgood Marshall?" queried a brainiac. Without missing a beat a blonde young man with his back toward me responded in his loud, annoying, I-don't-know-how-to-talk-without-screaming-junior-high-schooler-voice, "Thurgood Marshall is a leftist, communist, radical, pig."
I swear orange juice flew out my nose, "What did you say?" I directed toward the back of his head.
The young man crouched a little.
"I want you to turn around, look me in the eye and say that again," I demanded.
This time he said it with defiant gusto, "I said Thurgood Marshall is a leftist, communist, radical pig."
"That's what I thought you said," I then began a tirade that went something like this. "You certainly are entitled to your opinion, because in this country we have a right called 'Freedom of Speech'. And Thurgood Marshall dedicated his life to defending the rights of the citizens of this country." The little blond kid began to cower. I continued, "He'd even defend your right to say such a malicious, unfounded, and mean-spirited opinion about him. And I personally cherish this freedom because I want to know who the idiots are so I can confront them." I'm pretty sure I flicked some hashbrowns at him while I was pointing with my fork.
He paused for a moment, making sure I was finished, then he turned back around while mumbling under his breath, "I guess I shouldn't have called him a pig."
I stopped. Clearly the damage had been done. Someone had brainwashed this child so absolutely that he couldn't even see that he was sitting at table with and in a cafeteria of people of color. Had it not been for Thurgood Marshall where would these students be? Would they be at a summer camp for brainiacs? How had that same education failed this little aryan boy so profoundly?
I slumped in my chair. Then a boy from the table, on his way back from the cereal bins leaned over to console me by whispering in my ear. "It's ok, he's the Governor's son." It was Andy Ashcroft.
I looked up, the boy shrugged as if to say, honey nobody's gonna undo that programming with one pint-sized breakfast tirade.
Some people may say this is just a little story about something uttered by a child nearly a decade ago.
I say that children learn hate, racism, and rudeness from their parents.
Keep in mind that John Ashcroft, George W.'s appointee for Attorney General is the man who will soon be in charge of enforcing this nation's civil right's laws.
I've repeated this story countless times. It is not something I've made up to smear anyone's reputation, or add fuel to the fire of racist allegations against Ashcroft. It is just an interaction that occurred that had a profound effect on who I have become as a person.
I hope that young Andy remembers that breakfast as well as I do. Few people forget a tongue lashing from me. Although, I wasn't nearly as good at it back then. I hold out hope that he's digested what I said and came up with a few ideas of his own. A brainiac's mind is a terrible thing to waste.
Please feel free to forward this story to every single human being you know.