Congressman Jack Murtha stirred up a bit of a hornet's nest Wednesday when he remarked that Barack Obama will likely win Pennsylvania next month, but his margin of victory will be less than it might be because Western Pennsylvania is a "racist area." That's a broad term, and a poor way to frame the argument, but there's some truth to what Murtha says, at least in my experience. I can only speak to what I've seen and heard over the past 50 years, most of which I've spent in Western Pennsylvania, and I have to say that there are a lot of white folks - 10 percent? 20 percent? - who are suspicious of or actually have dislike or hatred toward people of a different color, religion or country of origin. The daily poll on the O-R Web site has provided plenty of evidence of that over the past couple of months. People generally think of the South as being a hotbed of racism, but I think it's just a different brand. Here, most people aren't outwardly racist. They might hide behind the anonymity of an online poll when they make their hateful statements, but they won't drop N-bombs on Main Street. The racism is more overt in the South. Perfect strangers who are making conversation with you will use the N word. At least, that was the case when I lived there in the late 1980s. Maybe there has been positive change in the region, but I'll give you a couple examples of what I confronted there. When I was first moving to Columbia, S.C., my company sent me there to look for a place to live. The first place I stopped after getting off the plane was a fast-food restaurant. As my then-wife and I walked in, we saw the manager, a white man, having a heated argument with a black woman. After she stormed out, he came up to us - two total strangers - and said, "I have to apologize for that n-----." We were dumbfounded. In another instance, a restaurant owner lost his state liquor license because he was found to have refused service to a group of black people. I called him to get a comment, and he replied, "You can print this. They just kissed another n----- ass." The Civil War does live on in some people's hearts. Back to Murtha. He sometimes seems to engage his mouth before starting his brain, but that doesn't make what he said false. I'm sure that his election opponent, if he hasn't issued a statement already, is working up a news release attacking Murtha for his remarks. Because, as we all know in politics, it doesn't matter whether what you say is true; it's all about how much political hay can be made from it.