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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 12:56 pm | Fair 62º


Tim Durnin: A Measured Response to a Seemingly Bigoted Email

Reaching out to a reader with a strong reaction to a column about a past trip to Mexico

I received an email last week regarding my Thanksgiving column. The header indicated it was “from” blah-blah-blah. Normally an email drafted by someone with such a well-constructed name would be immediately marked as spam. I didn’t mark it because the entire, succinct message appeared in the preview.

It read, “Hey Tim, how come your [sic] so worried about a bunch of mexicans [sic] that would kill you if they saw you on the street in their neighborhood at night. How about doing something for White [sic] people?”

I felt I had to reply. Here is my response.

Dear Mr. and/or Mrs. Blah,

I appreciate you reading my column. I can only assume you are referring to the recent piece I wrote on time I spent in Mexico when I was in college. Let me begin by saying that it was not my intention to express worry about the people I encountered in Mexico. On the contrary, with the exception of those serving time in prison, the folks I met were all doing quite well.

As for your suggestion that the people I wrote about would kill me on the street if I was seen in their neighborhood at night, I am happy to report this is not the case. I spent many nights in the hills above Tijuana and never felt threatened walking the streets after dark. I did trip and get rolling down a hill pretty fast one time. Some of the hills are pretty steep. I just ended up with a few scrapes, bruises and some embarrassment. It was nothing a little tequila, Neosporin and a Band-Aid wouldn’t fix.

As for what I do for “white” people, I do what I can. Although I think it’s fair to say I don’t really make distinctions as to the race of the people my humble efforts might support. I belong to a couple of service clubs and am on a few boards, but these are all integrated organizations and don’t provide their respective services based on race. The world has changed, and I think you might be hard-pressed to find such an organization in Santa Barbara — northwestern Montana maybe.

I do hope I have responded accurately and appropriately to your inquiry. If not, please let me know if there is more information I can provide.

Kind regards,

I neglected to mention in the letter that I continued to take student groups to the same neighborhoods for a few years after I left college and started teaching. For most of them it was an experience they still carry with them. We always felt safe, welcome and never the least bit threatened. On the contrary, we felt like our hosts were overly protective. It was nice to feel so cared about, so secure.

Of course, Mexico has changed in the years that have passed. I would not cross the border with the same ease and lackadaisical attitude as I did then. This is not to suggest that I believe there has been any substantive change in the people I encountered and grew to love. It is to suggest that our country’s voracious appetite for drugs has cast a violent and threatening shadow over many border towns.

I wish there were a gentle way to blur the rigid lines that people draw to close themselves off from others. They are the same lines that keep like-minded people trapped, closed in and held together by rigid definitions of the world and their surroundings. I lived in that world once and know it well.

I also know my words will not suffice (and my anger even less so) in combating bigotry and intolerance. Education, patience and good humor will. In that context, truth does tend to prevail, of that I am certain.

— Tim Durnin is a father and husband. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for comments, discussion, criticism, suggestions and story ideas.

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