Our community, state and nation are deeply divided along ideological, and yes, racial lines.
Our divisions didn’t look so deep on a sun-splashed Monday from the corner of King and Columbus streets.
Sure, most of the folks passing by in — and watching — the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade were black.
But some of them were white.
Anyway, who’s counting?
From my vantage point, the King Day parade — like a Christmas parade or a Veterans’ Day parade — was a happy slice of Americana.
Sure, it lacked Confederate re-enactors.
It included, however, Union re-enactors — and even an Emancipation Proclamation king and queen.
There were assorted bands (marching and otherwise), church groups, business people and a Law Enforcement Honor Guard.
There were my favorite paraders of the day — members of the W.M. Anderson Marching Rhythm Band, an energetic drumming/dancing troupe of kids from Kingstree wowing the crowd at the King-Columbus intersection.
There also were the St. John’s High School U.S. Army ROTC and the National Association of Black Military Women.
The NABMW member driving the truck for the latter group of vets shouted to the throng on the sidewalk: “We were proud to serve our country.”
That’s right — our country.
And our country and my hometown, in my lifetime, have come a long way on the racial front.
In my distant youth, you wouldn’t have seen many, if any, white people cheering for a Martin Luther King Jr. parade in our Holy City.
You wouldn’t have seen such a parade in the first place.
You also wouldn’t have seen our first-to-secede state’s dominant political party issuing this statement:
“Dr. King’s life and work remind our nation that we should always strive for our highest ideals, no matter the difficulty. His message of justice and equality is timeless. It is my hope and prayer that Dr. King’s dream lives on in many more generations who recognize his leadership and sacrifice.”
You need not be of any particular color or party affiliation to share that Monday sentiment from South Carolina Republican Party National Committeeman Glenn McCall.
OK, so Republicans — like Democrats — have political motives.
OK, so there are still significant black-and-white gaps in our United States — including, but not confined to, political ones.
According to the Roper Center (the University of Connecticut’s public research institution, not the Charleston hospital where I was born), black Americans voted to re-elect Barack Obama president by a 93-6 percent margin in 2012, while white Americans voted for Mitt Romney to replace him by a 59-39 percent margin.
Just don’t let those numbers obscure the rising ranks of black conservatives — and enduring ranks of white liberals, or if you prefer, “progressives.”
And don’t let shouting matches disguised as policy debates on TV news networks (that’s entertainment?) feed the fiction that all conservatives think all liberals are communists and all liberals think all conservatives are racists.
Lots of us on all sides regard the other side as merely misguided, not malevolent.
Then again, President Barack Obama, in an interview posted on the New Yorker website Monday, did say:
“There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black president. Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black president.”
Freer + Fairer = Better
Our current president is right — if by the “some” who “don’t like the idea of a black president” he means relatively few.
Or do you imagine that a white Democratic president wouldn’t have caught considerable grief for pushing an unaffordable Affordable Care Act through Congress without a single Republican vote?
If you’re old and local enough, you know that racial times have changed much for the better in our community over the last half century.
And if, like me, you finally saw “12 Years a Slave” Sunday, Monday’s joyous King Day parade was a welcome tonic from the hangover of those bad old times not forgotten.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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