I recently read an article by Marsha Mercer, a columnist out
of Washington, D.C., who came to North Carolina to get a feel for how we
practice politics. I was disturbed by
what she found. She talked to many
people who said they did not intend to vote in this election. I, too, have personally heard individuals say
they’re so mad at the Washington crowd they want nothing to do with anyone
associated. Others have come right out
and said they couldn’t vote for a black man.
This just isn’t right.
I’ve been around for a long time. I’ve lived in a lot of places – mostly in the
South. I grew up when there were Jim
Crow laws, a lingering hatred of “carpetbaggers,” distrust of Jews, suspicions
of Yankees, fear of Catholics, and so on.
And this is just a snapshot of our history. It seems to be human nature to look for
someone who can be considered inferior or a threat, and when that perception
proves invalid, to move on to someone else.
Americans have looked down on Indians, blacks, Irishmen,
Asians, Jews, Catholics, Muslims, and Mormons, just to name a few biases we’ve
shown since 1776. We clearly wouldn’t be
the world’s leading nation today if all those people had not been assimilated
and all those talents combined.
Incidentally, almost all of our forefathers came to America
to escape oppression, bias, or poverty, all of which had placed them on the
“inferior” list. Many of us are
descended from indentured servants or convicts who were sent here from England
until the American Revolution forced the British to use Australia as their
penal colony. Few, if any, of us have a
valid justification for demeaning another individual simply because he or she
looks different, thinks differently, speaks with a strange accent, or has an
unfamiliar name. It just doesn’t make sense.
When I was coming along, my schools were segregated. I played football but had no black teammates
nor did any of our opposing teams. Now
it is pretty clear that there are a great many superior black athletes in most
if not all sports. I didn’t know that at
the time. I assumed that we were just
naturally better. I doubt if I could have made the team if we had had black
students. Times change, and now most of
my favorite players are black – because they’re good.
Years ago I managed a dry-cleaning and laundry plant in
Memphis, Tennessee. We had seven or
eight white employees and more than 40 black employees. I discovered that there is not much
difference except for color. We had lazy blacks and lazy whites, of course, but
most of our workers were hard workers, smart, and personable. I was pleased and proud to be one of them.
Now we have an African American running for President of the
United States. He has put together
probably the most effective campaign this country has ever seen. He defeated my choice, Hillary Clinton, in
the primaries, and it appears he may be elected in November. He is doing this while being attacked as a
terrorist, a Muslim, a racist, and anything else his opposition can dredge
up. One blogger even insisted that he’s
not an American citizen! How absurd can you get? He’s none of those negative
things, of course, and has remained calm, thoughtful, and certainly persuasive
throughout what has become a prolonged ordeal.
I’ve decided he is like those black football players whom I didn’t know
but assumed were not up to par. They proved they were great, and I really
believe Senator Obama will be too.
I sincerely hope everybody in North Carolina will exercise his
or her right (and duty) to vote this year — whomever they vote for. I hope they don’t stay away because of
mistrust, bias, or other similar reasons.
We MUST show the whole world that America deserves to be the number one
role model for Democracy.
Tom Carpenter is
President Emeritus of the University of North Florida (where the library is
named for him) and of the University of Memphis. He is a resident of Blowing