I volunteer at my town’s Senior Citizen’s center a few times a week, working in the computer lab associated with our public library. There I perform crowd control when things get busy, and answer questions about using the computer, printing, and various websites. I get paid with a free cup of coffee (when I remember to go get it).
In many ways I am an anomaly. I am one of barely a thousand black people in a town whose population is over Seventy-six thousand. Except when I go to the supermarket or the main library I am pretty much the only black face I see, and I have to go to the mirror to see me. So I definitely can’t ever afford to be colorblind. And yes, my town is a Republican stronghold. When I asked for a Democratic ballot at the primary this spring I was one of only a handful, next to the giant stack of Republican ballots. (But at least I had to ask, they did not simply assume that Black == Democrat).
Not so yesterday. I was in the computer room, and a gentleman came in who had never been there before. He had questions about how his phone works and about some of our classes (we offer free classes to the public). I answered, and thought we built a small rapport. He was smiling as he started for the door. We had said absolutely nothing about politics.
He stopped before leaving, as if something suddenly struck him. Had I seen the movie about Hillary’s America, he asked.
Nope. Hadn’t seen it, don’t intend to, I don’t do propaganda.
Oh right, he said with a resigned look. You’re a democrat.
Now I happen to consider myself an independent. Yes, I voted Democrat in this last primary, which he couldn’t know, but mostly I like to pick and chose who I vote for up and down the ticket. But I’m black and I did not want to waste my time viewing propaganda, so I had to be a Democrat. And to him, that immediately turned me from helpful volunteer to the enemy.
He then proceeded to regale me with a list of things the movie “reveals” about Hillary. If I would only watch it, it would make me change my mind. I told him I actually like doing my own research (I am a researcher by trade, with a masters degree in Biochemistry and a second masters in Computer Science. I like looking things up for myself and not accepting other people’s opinions.)
He proclaimed me stubborn like a rock, being blindly led around by the democrats and bad Hillary, and that my mind was made up and I was a sheep. I could have said the same about him. He was adamant that Trump was real, as was every detail he saw in that movie. It had to be real, it confirmed everything he heard on Fox.
I saw immediately there was no point in trying to convince him of anything, not even that I was grown enough to check the facts for myself. He was right about one thing. As soon as Trump was confirmed as the Republican nominee my mind was made up about the Presidential race. I could not vote for someone who actively encourages his supporters to exercise their racism and bigotry on people like me. I am neither blind, nor a sheep, and certainly not suicidal. I have done my homework, I may not know what either candidate, and that includes the Green Party candidate, thinks in their hearts. But I know what they say and do and how one extorts his followers to violence.
The truth is, I’m not an automatic Democrat because I am black. Nor will I vote for Hillary just because I don’t like Trump. My problem is that so many so-called ordinary people are so quick to use him as an excuse to unleash their hatred and bigotry. Someone tried to tell me there was no such thing as a lesser of two evils. I disagree. Sometimes the choices we make really do matter.