I pulled up to my dealership, just down the street from an Air National Guard base, near the Lockheed plant that builds C-130s and F-22s for the Air Force. The guy who took my car was friendly. The salesman inside who showed me a diesel Jeep was friendly. Everyone's real friendly in the suburbs. But I kept thinking that I was in the suburbs, not friendly territory for my "Brite Blue Dot" and Obama stickers...
I'll just say that I was watching intently, pleased with what I was hearing. When, after about 5 minutes, the guy who was working on my car came by to tell me that the car wouldn't be ready until the afternoon, I thanked him and stayed right where I was to watch the rest of the speech. But something curious happened. I was snapped out of the moment of the speech by the mechanic's visit, which was fine because Obama was, in a very real sense, giving the speech about race in America that I've wanted to hear my entire life: genuine, personal, intelligent, and direct. I've watched the speech again since this morning, and it didn't disappoint, but just at that moment I stopped watching it ...
... and started watching the people around me. The young black man. The elderly white couple. The two white women, one college-aged, one in her late-20s. One middle-aged white woman. Two white men, one college-aged, one in his late-30s. One Asian couple. All of them were watching the speech. Rapt. Nodding.
Gradually, the twentysomething white woman went back to her laptop, but kept smiling when Obama would say something important. The elderly white couple whispered in their Southern accented way: "He's really good... He's saying good things... He's a good young man..." The young black man chuckled when Obama said that Sunday morning was the most segregated hour in America, but was otherwise simply watching. And at one point, the middle-aged white woman asked one of the dealership folks, in another thick, thick Southern accent if she wouldn't mind turning up the volume, because she really wanted to hear this speech.
She, this white Southern woman from the suburbs, wanted to hear this speech, delivered by a Black man with a funny name running for President. And she was nodding.
But she wasn't the only one. Folks from the dealership, passing through on their way to and from whatever they do (most of them for not a lot of money) stopped and watch for 3 or 4 minutes. A young mechanic of ambiguous ethnicity stopped by at least a half-dozen times (hours later he stopped me as I was walking to the cashier to pay and said "That was some speech," then paused awkwardly, and said, hushed, "It's good that folks our age are getting involved, I think, right?"). Two salesmen, white, mid-40s, Southern as sweet tea, stopped and watched. And nodded. And I wasn't the only one to stick around to watch the speech after my business at the dealership was done.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
I Think I Hear the Angels Singing Again.
I found at Kos this Atlanta man's moving description of watching Obama's speech at a suburban Jeep dealership. The whole story is really worth reading: