This the second article of a three part series that I’m doing on my experience volunteering for the Obama Campaign. You can read the first article here.
While in SC, I have several interesting encounters that I thought I’d share. For the purpose of this article, we will refer to my friends as “John” and “Meg”. I did not ask for approval to use their real names therefore I feel that it would be inappropriate to do so. It is worth noting that John is black while Meg is White.
The first of these encounter happened at Huck’s post-primary party. John, Meg and I exited from the ballroom and into the main corridor. Unfortunately, there was not sighting of the legend that is Chuck Norris. John decides to stop to purchase a couple of Huckapins. Disinterested, Meg and I continued to walk down the main corridor. About half way down the hall, a white lady(WL) approach us and the conversation goes something like this:
WL: Excuse me (This was directed in my direction and she got up to started walking towards me. so I stop)
WL: Are you for Gov. Huckabee?
ME: <at this point I think I know enough for talk about the Gov. standing on the issues, so why not go along? plus I’m at his party> Yea I am.
WL: Can you tell me why there are not more of your kind here?
<The audience at the party was very diverse in age but not in race. Is she talking about my race? Is this lady serious? At this point I’m trying to figure what to say. First thought that came to mind was to pretend that I’m dating Meg and claim that she dragged me to this all white event. But Meg was so offended by the question that she ran back to John who was still purchasing Huckapins. Left with no witty comebacks, I decided to not be offended and address the question. I can’t remember what exactly what I said but it was something like the following>
ME: Well we have one our own running right now and his message is appealing and that’s very exciting. Also, while The Gov’s message does resonate with some conservatives black community but post-primary parties are not exactly the most advertised event on TV.
<She asked about to which church I belong to, to which I answered that I was in from DC to see the Huck speak. But I am attending church up here. She asked a couple more questions that I’m answered. The end of the conversation went something like that this.>
WL: Blacks are going to be important in one and Gov has a nice message.
ME: Yea we are. have a good one.
<exit stage right>
When I twittered about having an O’reilly moment that is the conversation I was referring to. It was very surprising that the woman felt comfortable enough to approach me and asked me a question worded in such a manner. The lady was not trying to offended or insinuate anything negative about the African Americans. Moreover, I truly believe that the question itself was relevant however the manner in which it was asked displays some sort of ignorance about race relations in that part of the country. More surprising than the actual question was the genuineness behind the question. Part of me wanted to shake her and ask her what hole she had been living in. Regardless, I hope she learned something, because I know I definitely did.
My second encounter was with two older gentlemen at the MLK march. I ran into a small coffee shop to get some coffee and tea. While waiting for my beverages, I asked two gentlemen what they thought about the speeches given by the NAACP representative. Basically, they told me they had conflicted feelings. They said that they appreciated that the NAACP was pointing out some of the discrepancies that exist is South Carolina today. They felt that a lot of the younger generation are not exposed to the history of the state to comprehend some of the subtleties of the racial tensions that still exist today. However, they felt that the NAACP would not do much. They felt that its leaders are more selfish than they have been in the past. Moreover, they felt the leaders were using the MLK holiday, along with the presence of Presidential candidates to get their 15 minutes of fame. They rebuke the NAACP leader for constantly evoking, King’s name and ideals while falling well short of them. For me, this encounter presented a new perspective because I always thought that only young people like myself think that the NAACP is losing its greatness by the hour.
My last encounter was with a gentlemen protesting that the confederate flag should stay up. John and I had a discussion about the flag the night before. We have a different stance as the what the faith of the flag should be. Regardless, John first approached and asked about the gentlemen stance on the issue. The gentleman stated he wanted the flag flying over the state capitol building like it used to. I tend jumped and asked why? his answer was something like “because that’s were it belongs.” I told him he was wrong for unconditionally wanting to flag to stay up, and the NAACP was wrong for unconditionally wanting the flag to come down. The fact of the matter is that the flag means different things to both groups and neither group should impose its will on the other. I continued by stating that since both party would back down from their current position, it would be much useful approach the problem from another angle. I suggested forming an education panel comprised of people from both camps, that would talk about how schools in SC should teach the about the flag. And in that process, they may come with a solution about the faith of the flag. Another gentleman protesting with the gentleman I was talking to agreed with my point. As for the gentleman I was talking to, he took a second to think about what I said, and then presented another argument which I then countered. Eventually, we said goodbye and left. I doubt anything will come of that conversation. That being said, it showed me if you come open minded about issue and are willing to offer an alternative way to look at problem, they will listen. And that’s the first step to solving any issue.
While not very memorable as the title would suggest, these encounters brought home the reality of racial tensions in certain parts of the country. Living in a city such as Washington, DC and being in an inter-racial relationship often makes it easy to lose sight of what some parts of the country are still going through. That’s being said, I believe that there things we can do to soften those tensions, like talk to each other and instead of yelling at each other and being offended by every thing we see.