Archived Story

Cass ‘can’t afford to be racist’

Published 11:32pm Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Robert Saxton “loved it so much here” on visits, he moved to Cassopolis from Chicago in 1973.

“I have always boasted of the lack of racism here,” Saxton said, which is why a recent incident in this diverse community troubled him.

As someone who worked across the state line in Elkhart, whenever someone dismissed his home as a “hick town,” Saxton felt he had the last laugh returning to a safe place.

I imagine he was angry at the time, but he seems level-headed from things he said Tuesday that he considers this an aberration, including, “I’ve gotten over it now.”

Here’s what happened. Saxton’s brother visited from Columbus, Ohio.

Scouting for possible property by which he could move back home to Cass County, they came upon a parcel on M-60 near Dailey Road.

They pulled up to a house next to a lot they thought was for sale, rang the doorbell and spoke with the couple who lived there.

“We thought the information we were given was insightful and left,” Saxton said. “We didn’t have any problem,” but a “feeling” passed between the brothers.

Later, back home, a deputy sheriff “appeared at my house, accusing us of walking onto someone else’s property and taking photos of their home. The officer never asked us what happened. He simply assumed that what he had been told by the couple was the truth. After 39 years I find that some people would stoop to involving the police to keep a person of color from buying property next door simply because of the color of their skin. I think that officer (should) rethink his position as a public servant.” He couldn’t recall the officer’s name.

Turned out the property in question had been sold.

Saxton said his brother wore a camera around his neck, but denied taking any pictures except two at Robert’s house. With a long driveway, they had to go on the property to knock on the door, just as the officer came on his.

Saxton’s ire is directed more at the officer than at the couple. He just wishes they were less suspicious and didn’t immediately assume two black men to be “thugs.”

“Cass can’t afford to be racist,” said Saxton, who remains optimistic about the future because “kids don’t see color.”

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