13 May 2008

We Southerners Stick Together

This is a fascinating NPR interview with Senate Staffer, Bertie H. Bowman, an African-American who has just written a book about his years on Capitol Hill. Mr. Bowman is 77 years old and is still working on Capitol Hill. The title of Mr. Bowman's book is Step by Step ~ A Memoir of Hope, Friendship, Perseverance, and Living the American Dream. In this interview, he tries to get the obviously incredulous NPR interviewer to believe and understand that a black man could be friends with men like Strom Thurmond and J. William Fulbright who were, at the time, die-hard segregationists. Blacks and whites who grew up in the South understand how this is possible, but many from outside the region cannot (or will not try to) understand. Perhaps Mr. Bowman will be able to explain this complicated and bitter-sweet relationship in his book better than I did in mine. I have purchased Mr. Bowman's book and look forward to reading it.

At one point, Mr. Bowman says of his relationship with these Senators, "we just became friends." The NPR interviewer responds cynically, "Friends is the right word?" To which Mr. Bowman replies, "I would say friends, yeah, or one Southerner to another Southerner helping a Southerner out." The interviewer pressed the friendship issue further, but Mr. Bowman would not back down. I'm very familiar with this interviewer's cynical attitude.

The interview is worth listening to and is illustrative of the total disconnect that most non-Southerners have with our region; especially those in the mainstream media, Washington political types, and many in academia. Mr. Bowman credits his ability to make friends with these men to his mother's admonitions.

"We Southerners, we stick together." ~ Bertie Bowman

1 comment:

Caroline Heyward Jenkins said...

I watched Mr. Bowman on Tavis Smiley's program last night and I can hardly wait to read his book. I am from South Carolina too.