York, Pa., Discusses Race And Politics
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
And now, race and politics. Joining me in the studio are two of my colleagues, Michele Norris. Hello, Michele.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
SIEGEL: And someone whom you're used to hearing much earlier in the day, MORNING EDITION host Steve Inskeep. Hi, Steve.
STEVE INSKEEP: Good afternoon.
SIEGEL: And they're both here to preview reports that they're going to be doing tomorrow. This week, they were both in York, Pennsylvania, talking with a group of voters about race and its role in the presidential campaign. Michele, what did you find?
NORRIS: Well, we wanted to hold this discussion because we've been talking a lot about race in this election year, and we often get the sense that people have a lot more to say. And so, we spent more than three hours in a room with 13 voters, and we were surprised by their enthusiasm. They jumped right into the subject. There was candor. There was a certain amount of conflict. They, at times, confronted each other. And overall, at the end of the evening, it was clear that people of different races have a very different view of the world. And you'll hear that in this clip of tape.
Unidentified Man: White people are almost invariably shocked when they hear some of the things that African-Americans have to put up with. And it cuts across economic groups, too. African-American professionals in this town are treated differently. And they definitely treated differently by their peers.
NORRIS: How are they treated differently?
Unidentified Man: We have had incidents where white lawyers wouldn't shake the hand of a black lawyer. There are still situations like that.
SIEGEL: Michele, the miracle of radio prevents us from knowing if you're talking to a white man or a black man.
NORRIS: We were talking to a white Republican. He supports John McCain. And he also spent a lot of time talking to us about his concerns about intolerance in the community. Just by way of background, he works in York. He spent many years living in York. He had represented asylum cases and a very high profile immigration case in the county. And at the end of the night, he approached Steve and me to say that he actually learned a lot. It was conversation that he normally would not have engaged in. And he said at the end of the day, he learned quite a bit about Yorkers. That's what they actually call themselves there in York.
SIEGEL: Steve, did you hear things that surprised you or taught you something new about race?
INSKEEP: Yes. Even though we were asking a question, Robert, that people have been asking for months and months - in fact, it's in polls often - is America ready to elect a black president? We wanted to hear a more in-depth answer than just a yes of no to that. And we spoke with people - we posted to many people, including Cal Weary(ph). He's a high school drama teacher. He's African American. And he suggests that in his mind, there's a lot more at stake than just whether one person, Barack Obama, gets to the White House.
Mr. CAL WEARY (Drama Teacher): Every time that an African American male achieves another one of these levels - and I'm saying male - that it opens it up to it being all right. And I started talking about before was each of us being a specific type - I'm black (unintelligible) - to that melting, that changing where people are like, well, he's the president. So that's all right for my daughter to date a black guy. And that's all right for us to cross these other lines. That's really the scary part.
INSKEEP: So we spent more than three hours trying to get the scary parts with black, white and Latino voters in this room.
SIEGEL: Did the people whom you interviewed, did they know one another before this? Or did you bring them together for the first time?
INSKEEP: We were surprised to find that there were amazing connections between them.
NORRIS: We sat down for dinner with them before the conversation, and it turned out that there were all kinds of connections, either by neighbors, they'd gone to school together, they had relatives that knew each other. It's a fairly small town.
SIEGEL: Life in York, Pennsylvania. Well, Michele Norris, Steve Inskeep, I look forward to hearing your reports tomorrow on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED and on MORNING EDITION. And thanks for stopping by.
NORRIS: Thank you, Robert.
INSKEEP: You're welcome.
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