By Leonard Pitts, Jr. for the Miami Herald. Leonard Pitts Jr. won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2004.

This idea that some of us are less than the rest of us, that some of us are roaches, vermin, viruses, parasites, infestations, beasts or sub humans to whom one owes no duty of human decency or commiseration, didn’t start with the Nazis. It is as old as Cain. As widespread as the common cold.

Yet we don’t learn, never learn. Dead Jews become dead Rwandans become dead Serbs become dead Darfurians; yet still some of us mouth pious hatreds with a smug certitude and offhand arrogance accessible only to the deeply, profoundly and utterly wrong.

I’m reminded of an older white lady who called me once to thank me for a column decrying some racial insult. She had a grandmother voice, a voice that sounded like cookies in the oven smell, and she wanted me to know she admired black people, supported black people. Then she added in a conspiratorial whisper, “It’s the Jewboys I can’t stand.” Because everybody is sure their own hatreds are just.

We’ve got to live together.

And meantime, somewhere far away, the trees are filled with light, the air is laced with hymns of joy.

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