Election '08: America Shows Her True Colors in West Virginia

I was getting very tired and somewhat disgusted dealing with stories and videos of white Republicans acting like 1960's-era segregationist assholes. I didn't like hearing all the anecdotes from white erstwhile-Democrats saying that they're not voting for the black guy. Shit like that makes me depressed, it hurts my feelings, and it makes me hurt for all the people that are the direct recipients of that hate and ignorance. So, I found this Washington Post article about how old-time white Democratic organizers in West Virginia have been integrated with the new wave of racially diverse Obama volunteers to be quite a tonic.

The article focuses on Waneta Acker, an 88-year-old retired insurance saleswoman, who has run the one-room Democratic headquarters in Wheeling, West Virginia for the last twenty years running. In her two decades of experience, the small, local black community had not been involved in politics. That changed when Obama secured the nomination in June and some black people started showing up at headquarters to volunteer. But she got a preview in April:

Change suddenly arrived on April 12. That day, at the nearby Carpenters Union, supporters of Barack Obama staged a coup of sorts.
It was the Ohio County Democratic Party's monthly meeting. On the agenda: choosing delegates for the state Democratic Convention in Charleston, which in turn would elect delegates to the National Convention in Denver.

In place of the dozen or so participants Acker expected, at least 50 Barack Obama devotees showed up, clad in blue T-shirts, baseball caps, and buttons blaring: "PROGRESS."

"Who are these people?!" Acker demanded. She didn't know them, "And that's unusual because I know gillions of people."

Stranger still, they were "mostly dark, black, African American or what have you." That's through Acker's eyes. In fact, less than one in three of those Obama-backers were black, though that is still a relatively large ratio in this 93 percent white town. To Acker, anyway, it looked like a flood of strange newcomers.

Acker's first response was defensive. These people were encroaching on her turf, and she wasn't sure they were friendly.

Acker feared "retaliation" for ancestral sins. "Black people were treated horrible in the past and might start showing the white people what it's like," Acker mused. Maybe they'll "get cocky" if Obama wins.
Even if he didn't win, she feared that Obama's candidacy could hurt local Democratic candidates. If the headquarters is covered in Obama paraphernalia, Acker wondered, "How many white people will come in the office? That's what I'm looking forward to [seeing]."

In June, with the nomination sewn-up, Acker's fears got put to the test. The order came down from Chicago that the local Democratic office would be completely absorbed, or 'integrated,' with the Obama campaign. Keep in mind that this story was repeated all over the country. The old guard was now on orders to be hospitable to the new guard. The 88 year-old Acker wasn't very comfortable with that idea.


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