Notes from the Campaign Trail (4)

I started my day asking for nominating petition signatures at the Chester, PA train station from 8-9 AM. The first 13 gladly signed without hesitation,the 14th gave me a thorough job interview. He talked about the advice he gave his new white Pastor at his 100% black congregation. "Right from the start, show you are a different kind of white man, not like the others." His point was well-taken. Here I am a white man from affluent Havertown, dressed in a nice suit, asking black people from one of the the poorest cities in the US to sign my nominating petition while their mayor, a well-known black career politician, is also running for Congress. I told him I am a public school teacher and coach in Philly and that before that career change 15 years ago, I mentored kids from what used to be the Schuylkill Falls Housing Project. I told him a true story of when we were waiting for the missionary from my church who ran the after school Bible club there to arrive in the host's apartment to deliver the lesson. I was seated in one of two couches and wingback chairs crowded with about 10 8th graders beefing about their teachers and principals. Kid one: "Yeah, Ms. Smith suspended me; I didn't do nothing. I hate white people." Kid two: "Yeah, Ms. Jones gave me a detention; I didn't do nothing. I hate white people. I had to interrupt. "Yo guys! What about me?" Kid 3: "Oh Mr. Larry, you black." Everyone nodded. The hold out on the train platform signed the petition and said, "Keep being different" as he handed it back to me." I replied, "I can't help it."