I had dinner with my friend Carri Twigg last night. She’s a former organizer who worked in the White House during both Obama terms. She’s the kind of person who attracts attention wherever she goes, and despite her humility, I can tell deep down she likes it.
I was telling her about my recent trip to Minnesota, far, far up north to a town of about 300 people. It just so happened the annual summer parade (celebrating mythical American hero, Paul Bunyan, mind you) was happening. So, embracing my American roots, I saddled up on the street ready to receive candy tosses and cheer on the modest floats.
Just as I was wondering if there would be a LGBT float (it’s Pride season, after all!) along came the Congressional representative’s car. A naive girl, I did a quick Google search in the hopes he stood on my side of the culture wars. Unlikely. The first result was his Facebook post shaming gay people and black people, saying something about Obama’s agenda to ruin the United States.
I was telling Carri about this experience and once again, naively stated, “I think it’s just about exposure” suggesting that if that Congressman, or those voters, just got to know me, they’d feel differently about the entire group.
Carri, half black, born and raised in an all-white Ohio community, smirked. “I’m not convinced,” she said rather gently, going on to explain to me how her community, growing up, was constantly exposed to her (black) which didn’t stop them from saying all sorts of hateful, racists things about black people as a whole.
“I’m going to say the douchiest sentence ever, Erica. Forgive me: have you seen my TEDx talk?”
I smiled, “no, I haven’t.”
And there it is, all laid out: why exposure alone isn’t enough in shaping, and reshaping the American identity.