The Black and White of American Politics

Dec 302008

By Luciana Geuna

We were having dinner in a fancy restaurant when Nic, a Tallahassee Democrat reporter, started to complain because she was going to get up early the next morning: “Tomorrow I have to be at 7 am in the court. The jury must decide if they give the death penalty to a killer”. Something similar happened with a member of the Florida electoral court when she showed me the new amendments to the Constitution that people were going to approve or not on Election Day. One of them, the second, mandates that in Florida, a legal marriage can only be between a woman and a man.

A day later, Angie, another journalist at the newspaper, was so excited telling me everything about the record of early voting. “Last week,” she said, “there were two thousand people coming from black churches to the court early to vote”. Angie was excited about the early voting. I was surprised because she was tell me that now, in this country, there still are black churches. It was the same feeling I had when Nic told me that the death penalty is available in Florida State or when the woman of the electoral court explained to me that the governor is trying to stop any possibility of gay marriage.

Paul, the politics editor of Tallahassee Democrat, tried to help me. “This city is part of the South of this country,” he told me, and I realized that in this part of the country there still are a lot of conservative values that are so different from what we see when we go to New York or Washington. I felt I was really inside America.

Staying 10 days in Tallahassee has been a great lesson in understanding this country. In cities like Tallahassee you get the opportunity to live and see the black and white of the American way of living. I’ve seen a guy like Ion Sancho, the Leon County electoral court supervisor, making this electoral process a completely transparent and exciting moment for the citizens of this town. I’ve seen the homecoming event in the A&M University -- an institution that is legally open for blacks and whites since 60’s – but there were no whites at all at the crowded football game of the homecoming.

I’ve also seen an entire newsroom of journalists at the Tallahassee Democrat producing with passion a democratic and objective newspaper. I’ve seen happy people voting in this capital that had such a bad experience in voting just eight years ago. And I’ve seen Barack Obama winning this election.

This country has that unique way of development where you see hard and historical contradictions, with some radical people against civil rights on the one hand and yet anyone can come here and see that the majority of the citizenship has just elected an African American, a young senator full of hope and new ideas, as their next President.

The writer is a reporter for Critica newspaper in Buenos Aires, Argentina.