Local author’s volume cited by the International Book Awards
Ponte Vedra resident Mike Mulhern was recently named an International Book Awards finalist for his volume, “The Repentant Racist” (Best Seller Publishing; $4.95 e-book; $9.95 paperback; $19.95 hardcover ; available on Amazon.com).
The book chronicles the evolution of his racial attitudes as a child growing up in New York and New Jersey in the late 1940s and early 1950s to the present day.
As a boy, he believed that being white made him superior to black people.
“That was how things were, so they had to be that way for a reason,” he adds. “I was the beneficiary and not the victim of this, so why should I have been concerned?”
That all changed when he went to college in southern Louisiana and Mississippi.
“There I learned the region specializes in two cottage industries,” he laughs, “racism and football.”
As his contact with black people increased exponentially from what he had been in the North, he was able to witness first-hand overt racism. He defines himself as “a New Jersey Yankee at King Cotton’s Court”, living in the 1960s when racism was the norm, and he was expected to accept it if he wanted to be accepted himself.
His interest in history led him to develop an unusual hobby: driving – tape recorder in hand – interviewing the last surviving slaves who had been freed from involuntary servitude by the Civil War.
“None of them escaped a lifestyle of poverty, but they were survivors, parasites, making the most of the lives that society as a whole in the South forced them to lead,” said he declared.
Some of his slave interviews are recounted in the book.
While in Louisiana, he lived in an integrated neighborhood where there was a lot of racial tension. It helped him overcome the last vestiges of racism he still had in him.
“I learned that if I wanted to hold all black people responsible for the actions of the worst of them, I had to be prepared to take responsibility for the actions of people like Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Putin, who, like me, were white,” Mulhern said.
In addition to her own personal recollections, Mulhern traces the unfolding of racial tensions in America from colonial times in an effort to show how we got to where we are today.
“As far as race is concerned, America has plodded along the path of two steps forward, one step back in the 157 years since the end of the Civil War,” Mulhern said. “Many anti-racism measures have been enacted on paper, but they have done little to create a change in the human heart. Do not despair ! The prospects of hope are as bright as the rising sun, and the change needed will appear when whites and blacks decide that enough is enough and work together to allow this new day to dawn.
Mulhern wrote for The Ponte Vedra Recorder in 1997 and during his tenure at the paper won a Florida Press Club award for “General Excellence in Sports Writing”.