Sunday morning I awoke in a tent on the Eleven Point River to the sounds of two crows in a tree overhead loudly discussing the odds of getting into our food stash. It was 6:30 a.m., so I clambered out and shooed them away, thinking that I would try to go back to sleep, but the river had other ideas.
I stared as a bald eagle circled overhead. A great blue heron stood in the crystal shallows just upstream. And across the river, what first appeared to be the Loch Ness monster turned out to be a family of four river otters. I watched silently as they frolicked, thanking Mother Nature for her morning gifts.
Back in Memphis that evening, I read the Sunday paper. The pundits were picking over the remains of last week's election. There was some clucking about a "dirty little secret," namely that white voters didn't vote for black candidates. Others were saying that Steve Cohen's election meant that Memphis had entered a "post-racial" electoral era. I don't think either claim holds water.
If we are truly post-racial, then why is everybody keeping tabs on the candidates' race and adding up the score? And if white voters don't vote for black candidates, how do you explain A C Wharton's landslide victories?
I have my own little secret, and I don't think I'm alone in this: Sometimes, particularly for down-ballot offices, I honestly don't know whether some candidates are black or white. If I haven't heard about a scandal in a particular office, I'll usually vote for the incumbent. Same with retaining judges. I think most of us — black, white, and brown — vote on name recognition and our impression of whether a candidate is honest, competent, and baggage-free.
I voted for Democrats and Republicans, blacks and whites. Did I vote for more white people than black, more Democrats than Republicans? I didn't check. I don't care. Next time, the numbers in any of those categories might go the other way. The point I'm trying to make is that I think most of us have stopped counting. We're looking for good people to vote for â€” people we can trust to handle our tax dollars and run our governmental and judicial offices with intelligence.
One thing does seem clear: A candidate can no longer win by campaigning on a platform of "vote for me because of my race." (So long, Willie. See you, Thaddeus Matthews.) Does that mean Memphis has become "post-racial"? I don't think so. I don't even think that's desirable. But it might mean that most of us have become "post-racist."
And that would be something to crow about.
Time moves in one direction, memory in another. — William Gibson
This week, an old friend sent me a photo of myself, circa 1978. In the picture, I was thin, long-haired, and standing barefoot on the porch of an old farmhouse where we lived, just outside of Columbia, Missouri. It was a shock to see it. I don't remember my friends and I taking many photographs, and I didn't remember this moment ...
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."