I am a 77-year-old white man, and unlike many of my friends, I need not be afraid to jog down the street for fear some hate-filled redneck will take a shot at me -- unless I'm wearing one of my anti-Trump T-shirts, that is.
While I won't like it if a blue flashing light pulls up behind me with siren burping a couple of times, I don't need to be afraid that a racist cop will immediately consider me a threat as he walks towards my car, resting his hand on the unstrapped gun at his side. Because I am not black.
I've never had to confront concerns like that, and it's hard for me to fathom running in the shoes of those who face that every day, and who must prepare their kids--especially little black boys--on how to respond in such circumstances.
I've never been a black man walking down the street with a friend, only to see a white woman walking towards me cross the street because she is afraid.
The other evening, a young black man, Jaime Harrison, who has a good chance to unseat Trump's pal Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), appeared on an online forum in which I participated that was sponsored by the Horry County, SC, Democratic Party and the Young Democrats of Horry County.
He told a story about how, when he was in his early 20s and had just purchased a new car after graduating from Yale University, he was pulled over by a white trooper because his car had struck something in the road and it apparently flipped up and smacked into the patrol car following him.
The incident ended peacefully, although Harrison was repeatedly grilled regarding what he might have in his vehicle, where he was going, etc. But, he felt like the cop was attempting to intimidate, even threaten him, simply because he is black.
Living While Black
Harrison pointed out that while his incident ended without difficulty, many, many other similar incidents, mostly unreported, all across the nation, do not. And, of course, the killing of the young black jogger, Ahmaud Arbery, in Georgia by two white vigilantes is a tragic example of a black man losing his life because of the color of his skin.
But while living while black has been Harrison's life experience, he insists that he requires himself to be positive, to look for good, to not be bitter. Otherwise, he says, it would simply be too depressing.
How he does that, I do not know.
But those life experiences, combined with a childhood of poverty and then remarkable educational and professional success, are what he intends to take to the Senate should he succeed in his uphill battle to defeat Trump's kiss-up pal, Sen. Graham.
During the online candidates' forum, Harrison called on people of all races to join together to overcome bigotry.
A Call for Unity
“We all have to stand up,” he said. “If you are a good person in this country and you see things that are not right, it is incumbent that you stand up and say enough is enough. As a black person, I should not have to carry all of that weight. Not in America. We shouldn’t have to do it. It’s not fair for us to do that because we already carry the weight of being black each and every day.”
That, alone, was a powerful statement. Then, he added:
“It’s time for us to unify as a people and say enough is enough. We have to stop this. We have to stop the target on black men. We have to stop the target on black women. We have to start treating each other the way we want people to treat us, because right now I can tell you that people in the African American community are not being treated (fairly).”
This is a man I admire.
Overcoming abject poverty to graduate from Yale University and Georgetown Law School, Harrison returned to Orangeburg, SC, to teach at his old high school, then served as a top aide to legendary South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, where he was able to help shepherd key legislation through Congress, including the last federal minimum wage increase.
Now, he wants to bring to the Senate that background, combined with the experience of growing up in a family that had to choose between paying the electric bill and putting food on the table. He wants to be a voice for all people, not just the wealthy and the well-connected.
“How many people in the Senate do you think were ever on food stamps?” he asked.
No doubt, the answer is zero. But they need that perspective in the Senate, they surely do.
I don't think I could ever run in Jaime Harrison's shoes and end up the way he has. I just don't.
But I can tell you this. We need more people in our leadership positions like him today, people who's priorities are helping bring safety and prosperity to everyone regardless of ethnicity or social standing, not just a chosen few. People who have experienced the lows, as well as the highs; who have turned challenges into opportunities, and who are ready to use that experience, that perspective, for the good of all mankind.
Note: To view the complete interview with Harrison, click here.