A white Democrat gunning for a state House seat in North Carolina raised a few eyebrows this week when pegged himself as “a member of the African-American community” during a recent campaign event.
Candidate Gary Shipman is one of three Democrats seeking the party’s nomination to challenge Republican incumbent Rep. Holly Grange, according to The News & Observer. Speaking to a crowd of voters on Sunday, Shipman said he has helped empower the gay community, as well as the Black community through his work as an attorney.
“I’m a member of the African-American community,” he said. “I’ve been where you are. I’ve been in your communities.”
Shipman’s head-scratching declaration came in response to a moderator’s question to the candidates on how they hoped to promote inclusion and make the Black community more excited about their campaigns. The attorney said he was directly responding to comments from fellow candidate Lelise Cohen, who said she was open to accepting any invitations to meet with Black voters in the community.
“Invite me and I will come,” Cohen told the crowd. “…Invite me to your churches and community groups, to whatever events you have. And to the extent that I can use my privilege to raise you up, I will do so.
In response, Shipman gloated that he didn’t need to be invited into the Black community because he was already a part of it. He later clarified his comments, claiming what he’d meant to say was that he’s already been out meeting with members of the Black community and other voters, so he’s confident about his standing with them.
“I’ve eaten at many a fish fry held by my ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters,’ ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles’ in that community,” he told The News & Observer via e-mail. “I have celebrated birthdays, births, marriages, graduations, Christmas, Thanksgiving, July 4, etc., with many members of the African-American community.”
“There are people within that community and elsewhere that refer to me (and treat me) like their ‘brother’ or ‘pops’ or ‘uncle’, and I refer to them (and treat them) like my ‘brothers’, ‘sisters’ and children,” he added.
Shipman went on to say that there’ve been times when members of the Black community have called him in the middle of the night with an issue and he responded because “they’re my family.”