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By Mel White 

Even in Tehachapi

On the Bright Side


My folks moved to Tehachapi in 1986, and I came to visit them often. They loved this little mountain town but I couldn't quite share their enthusiasm at the time. You see, on one of my first visits, just driving around town, we saw an old pick-up truck in a driveway, sporting the biggest Confederate flag I'd ever seen. I thought to myself, "I'm sure glad I don't live here."

Then, of course, as fate would have it, for unexpected reasons I moved to Tehachapi myself in 2000. I still was noticing too many caps, bumpers and t-shirts adorned with that loser flag, but at least the giant one on the pick-up was gone.

I knew Tehachapi leaned to the right as far as politics went (so did my folks, for that matter), but I also knew that Tehachapi claimed to be a Christian town, which made me think it should be a safe place for people (since Christ himself loved all different sorts of people and taught that we should all do the same).

Through the years that I've lived here, I've met many good and decent people, and a few I don't trust at all. Most people I meet seem friendly on the surface, but I don't really know that much about their inner workings because we are acquaintances rather than friends.

I've also found out that being a Christian seems to mean different things to different people, as I've written and spoken about equal rights on numerous occasions here in Tehachapi and have received bodily injury and death threats, threats to burn my business down, suggestions that I keep a look-out over my shoulder, suggestions that I leave town or else...some of which came from regular people "in the name of God" and at least two threats that came from Tehachapi clergy.

And this was all before our country elected a president who encourages violence against other Americans. Now that we have that kind of person in the White House, racists and bigots and white supremacists and evangelical terrorists feel emboldened to not only spew out their hatred for anyone different, but to actually act on those threats.

It happened in Virginia this month – white supremacists were rallying in Charlottesville with guns and bats and sticks, while other people were counter protesting (without weapons or threats), and some star-struck white terrorist drove his car into a crowd and killed one woman who was marching for equal rights and peace, and injured several others and I was trying to wrap my head around the idea that Americans were actually beating on and killing other Americans, on American soil, I learned it was happening in Tehachapi too.

A group of people, people who accept all colors, orientations, genders, religions, etc., were planning a simple vigil to stand in solidarity with the people of Charlottesville who abhor the violence and hate-speech which has become so common in our country these days. They posted on a public page on facebook and quickly received over 50 threats from other Tehachapians (probably some of those town folks who seem so friendly on the surface), threatening to drive into the crowd, run down anyone marching, and various other acts of violence.

Yes, threats of violence against people who want to stand/march for unity, peace, non-violence in America, and the love that is the basis of all the major religions and a good number of secular societies but which seems to not play much of a role in Tehachapi churches or government or evidently a significant part of the population.

I hope the city leaders will take a stand against violence and any kind of supremacy (or make a statement); I hope the pastors in Tehachapi will try to preach about love and tolerance and bringing people together instead of whatever they're preaching now that allows their members to behave so badly.

I hope you will join me and the many other good people of Tehachapi in shaming the racists in town, in not giving the haters a platform, in declaring that we want a town where everyone is free to be who they are, without fear of violence from some stupid and fearful zealot. Stand with us when we march or gather for vigils for the sake of non-violence.

I do believe that love can win over hate, even in Tehachapi.

Copyright 2017. Mel White, a local writer/photographer and business owner,

has been writing "On the Bright Side" columns for various newspapers since 1996.

She welcomes your comments at


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