Even before he arrives in Northern Virginia, the new fire chief for one of the country’s wealthiest suburbs heard the reason some people don’t want him there: his skin color.

The hoods and robes of today’s bigots are anonymity and WiFi.

And in Fairfax County, the digital demagogues are in full terror mode, throwing all the hate they’ve got in a scathing, online attack on the incoming fire chief, John Butler.

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“It’s a great time to be Black in America. If you can spell your name, you can get a free ride thru college, be fire chief or even President. Doesn’t matter if you’ve never achieved anything more than having dark skin!” That’s one of the mildest comments on the notorious, local online forum known as Fairfax Underground.

Never mind that Butler has been leading the fire department in Maryland’s Howard County for almost three years. Never mind that he has been a firefighter and paramedic for 25 years, did two tours of duty with the Marine Corps, was educated at Harvard, Johns Hopkins and the University of Baltimore.


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KOLUMN Magazine celebrates the lives of People of Color by giving our world texture.