It was something I’d never thought about. A couple of weeks later, I heard Obama talking about how common it is for young black men to hear car locks clicking as they walk by.
Years ago, while visiting a rural high school, I noticed several pickups with Confederate “Stars and Bars” plates in the student parking lot. I knew some of those kids and I asked them why they displayed the plates. They all told me the same thing: it was about pride in their southern heritage and had nothing to do with race and I believed most of them.
But I also knew that slavery was the foundation on which that heritage was constructed and that every African American who saw those plates interpreted an entirely different message.
A friend of mine asks me if it’s not equally racist for an African American to vote for Obama simply because he’s black as it is for a white person to vote against Obama for the same reason. Both are obviously racial responses. But there’s a big difference between having the chance for the first time in your life to vote for someone “who looks like me” than rejecting someone simply because he doesn’t.
Be honest. If the first 43 presidents had been black, would it surprise you that I – as a white man – might relish the opportunity to vote for a white candidate? If Hillary Clinton runs in 2016, don’t you think there’ll be at least some Republican women who vote for her?
We live side by side in the same world but usually in two absolutely different realities. We all should try much harder to see the other one.