What does it do to my black grandchildren when they watch television and see mobs of threatening white people supporting a South Carolina congressman who shouted “You lie” at the biracial president of the United States in a Joint Session of Congress viewed all over the world? How does it affect them to see guns brought to speeches given by the president? How puzzling it must be for them to hear some white people say they want their country back – from whom? I know what to tell them. Hold steady and keep the faith is what I tell my grandchildren and I bring perspective to the current white hysteria. Things were much worse 50 years ago for black people in America. Fifty years ago a far larger percentage of white Americans expressed anti-black sentiments in far more direct and violent ways.
Fifty years ago there were only two black congressmen, no black senators, no black governors, and few blacks in local governments around the country. The highest black office-holder in a local government in the country was Hurland Jack, the Borough President of Manhattan, in New York City. It is, I tell them, a measure of African-American social progress that there is a black president to whom racist sentiments can be directed. It is also a measure of white Southern incivility that such an outburst can happen as it did.
I live in South Carolina where many whites are crazy with the reality that a black man is president of the United States. This is, for them, a situation that must be confronted by all means necessary. This translates into insulting behavior by South Carolina’s politicians. One of the state's two Republican senators want to “break” the president by making his health care plan his Waterloo. Rusty DePass, a South Carolina political small potato, said that an escaped zoo gorilla was one of Michelle Obama’s ancestors. The state’s embattled governor had to be made to take the president’s stimulus money. Then along came Joe Wilson’s vulgarity. White politicians in South Carolina can behave this way with impunity because its majority population is largely racist. Fortunately only two of my grandchildren live here and will grow up here in this place of lagging social indicators.