Many years ago, not long out of college, I interviewed for a position in advertising sales with the local television station in Greenville, NC. I had been working at a radio station for about six months in a market 100 miles south of Greenville. I thought, as many recent college graduates do, that I knew everything there was to know about media sales and was ready to make the big jump into television.
The position was for an Agriculture co-op coordinator meaning, I would try to get money from John Deere Corporation to help supplement the advertising budget of the local John Deere tractor dealer. I didn’t know shit about tractors, corn or soy beans but again, I had a degree in marketing how hard could it be?
The local sales manager was going to meet me in the lounge of the Holiday Inn in Greenville. Think about that for a moment, how many Holiday Inn’s still have a lounge? Not many. When I got out of college my Dad bought me two suits, a brown one and a blue one and six dress shirts, three whites and three blues. That was my entire workplace wardrobe. I decided to wear the blue suit for this interview.
If any of you remember the sales manager Herb Tarlek in the television show WKRP in Cincinnati that is basically who I was meeting. Here I was in the lizard lounge of the Holiday Inn wearing my Sunday best blue suit, white shirt and red tie and everyone else in the bar, including the guy I was interviewing with, were wearing leisure suits with flora rayon shirts. The guy took one look at me and said, and I quote “I think you are too slick for this job, Slick. Let me buy you a beer for the ride home.” End of interview.
35 years ago agriculture was the king in Greenville, NC with tobacco production being the prized cash crop. But that has changed in recent years and East Carolina University has, in large part, led that change. What was once a sleepy teacher training school is now a leading Health Sciences and Research university drawing a diverse base of students and faculty as well and spurring industries to take advantage of not only the research but the graduate population. But I guess some of the Herb Tarlek’s in baby blue leisure suits and rayon shirts still remain in Greenville, NC.
Greenville, NC might be somewhat metropolitan, progressive, inclusive, and even Hillary voters but the rest of Pitt County aint’. White folk in Winterville, Farmville, Grimesland, and Bell Arthur are Democrat hating, flag waving, NASCAR loving, Bud drinking, pick-up truck driving, Americans by God and if some ungrateful, foreign born, Muslim, colored girl wants to poke a stick at their “President” then she needs to go…..“Send her back”.
I live in a Greenville also, Greenville, SC. Once upon a time we were a sleepy little southern town just like our sister city in North Carolina expect our king was textiles, not agriculture. When I read the USA Today article above I asked myself, “could the headline have read Greenville, SC rather than Greenville, NC”? Although Trump carried 60% of Greenville County voters there are many of us in my community that think of ourselves as forward, progressive (now seemingly a dirty word) thinkers but the question remained for me, could this have happened here, in my backyard? Sadly, the answer I believe is yes.
The debate for me isn’t if Trump is a racist. If he is or isn’t we can’t fix the warped mind of a 73 year old narcissist. What we can fix and fight are Trumps continued attempts to divide us, divide us with words, and divide us with policies. All of his reelection hopes, dreams and fears hang on his ability to energize his white base and how do you energize white people in Farmville, NC or Pelzer, SC you call a CNN’s Don Lemon, a black man “the dumbest man on television”, you call Rep. Elijah Cummings, also a black man, a “racist” and the city he represents, Baltimore, “rat infested”. You call Democrats “Socialist” and you press for Voter ID’s which always weed out minorities. And worse of all, you call four strong women of color America hatters because they dare to disagree with you and you allow your white throng of racist, rednecks to chant “Send her back”.
Rumi noted that “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” This nation has a lot of work ahead of it in both healing wounds and offering not only light but the compassion and space for people to heal. Let’s hope the people of Greenville, NC find the light and the space to reconcile an image that many in their community don’t believe they deserve. Hate has no place in our society but sadly since the dawn of time our societies have glorified and worshiped men of hate such as Trump, Stalin and Hitler. There will be others but hopefully some will learn from this most recent mistake.