Dear Joyce and Dale,
We’ve never met, but you seem like nice folks. You first came to my attention when you sent me an email entitled “WOW! This is Graphic!,” a chain message filled with political “facts” that ranged from technically true but misleading to outright false. Pretty typical chain email stuff. For future reference, John McAfee should not be considered an expert on Obamacare. He is a crazy person.
Despite not having the slightest idea who you two were, this was not unusual. As someone with both a common name and a simple email address I am often the source of mistaken identity. At least half a dozen Mark Hills around the world, not to mention a couple of Megan Hills, a Margaret Hill and many, many more, have no doubt wondered why emails they were expecting were arriving late. I am the reason.
What was unusual is that even after I informed you of your error you continued to contact me. I assumed there was still a misunderstanding about my identity, as you seemed to think I was your Mark Hill with a new email address. Your very polite response to my second email confirmed my hunch. I considered the matter closed.
Then more emails came. They came in groups of four to seven, and were always a mix of sappy inspirational messages, dubious political commentary and messages that were openly and embarrassingly racist. I strongly doubt surveys proved that while white Americans’ greatest fears are terrorist attacks and the death of a spouse, what black Americans fear most are ghosts and registered mail. That you believe this demonstrates a “vast difference” between the races is what’s really “pathetic” and “scary sad.”
Finding a racist on the Internet is about as a remarkable as finding grass on my lawn. But unlike the YouTube and CNN commenters who complain about “negro fagg0ts!!1” destroying the American way of life I can’t simply dismiss the two of you as angry, lonely people. You strike me as anything but angry and lonely. The messages that precede your emails make it clear you come from a loving family and have many dear friends. Joyce, you mentioned that you’re a retired grade school teacher who volunteers at your local hospital. That’s awesome. When I tried to clarify that you had the wrong Mark Hill you replied “Sorry ‘wrong Mark Hill’………just kidding. I am sure you are a ‘very right Mark Hill’ to your mom & many others.” That’s one of the most adorable things anyone’s ever said to me.
That’s why, even though I barely know you, it pains me to see you forwarding such vile emails. You’re not hateful. You seem like wonderful people. You remind me of the distant American relatives I once visited who kept a lovely home, made the best damn meal I have ever eaten, and politely asked me if my university was home to many of “the gays.”
I don’t know much about you, Joyce and Dale. It appears that you live in the country, or at least embrace country values. You’re getting up there in the years but enjoying retirement. I’d say that you’re stuck in your ways after being raised with backwards views, but then I’d be making as many assumptions as you are. I only had one grandparent who lived long enough for me to see them as a human being with beliefs and opinions rather than as a cookie and cash dispenser, and I can’t imagine her passing along a hateful word about anyone.
With that in mind, I’d like to ask you to please reconsider sending these emails. Not just to me, but to everyone. Your political beliefs are of course yours and yours alone, and while I’m concerned by the number of misleading and flat-out wrong claims you espouse, to debunk them would go well beyond the scope of a simple letter. I fear it would also come across as patronising, which is the complete opposite of my intention. I do hope that you can find the time to look into these issues for yourselves.
What I can tell you is that black Americans are not lazy subhumans trying to live off the sweat and tears of hardworking white people. I can tell you that Muslim Americans are not trying to replace the Constitution with sharia law, and that the goal of Islam as a whole is not to kill or enslave all of the world’s non-believers. I can tell you that they are average people just like you and me. I bet some of them would love the cutesy chain emails you send.
I can tell you this because the black, Muslim and other minority students I went to school with had better things to do than think of ways to steal from or destroy the government. They were busy trying out for the soccer team or worrying about their upcoming math exam or working up the nerve to ask out the cute girl in English class. I suppose it’s possible that the black guy I knew who went off to law school now lives in fear of ghosts and certain categories of mail when he’s not busy stealing my tax dollars at the hospital, but I doubt it.
I use this example, Joyce, because as a former teacher (a profession I greatly admire) you should understand better than anyone the power of education and experience in defeating ignorance. I hope you remember that the next time you’re about to hit Send. You and your husband no doubt worked hard to earn your retirement—please don’t waste a second of your golden years spreading hate.
-The Wrong Mark Hill