The young man said, "You better watch out that you don't get your store burned down, because we don't vote for n*****s around here."
I did ask her permission before retelling this story, and she requested that I not give any more specifics than "Middle Tennessee" because she takes the threat very seriously.
I find this story heartbreaking.
The GOP has deliberately tapped into this subtle racism since Richard Nixon in 1968, and it has been a highly effective strategy for them. The stereotype of the lazy, violent African-American male and the slutty, Welfare-dependent African-American female form the underpinnings of the entire Republican social argument.
Unfortunately, I can see the effectiveness of this strategy within my own family. People who were "yellow dog" Democrats for 60+ years have converted to the Republican party in the past decade because they believe Democrats want to hand out the vast majority of their tax dollars to shiftless, jobless (black) people.
Right now, the US Senate race in Tennessee is neck-and-neck. And so, the GOP is trying to awaken the secret fear of black people that sleeps within far too many voters in Tennessee. While Republican candidate Bob Corker and RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman cry crocodile tears, the GOP continues to run race-baiting ads statewide.
Do not let GOP racism go unchallenged! This is our opportunity to support and elect an African-American candidate from the South. This is our opportunity to change the face of Southern politics. As senator, Harold Ford, Jr., will open minds in Tennessee. He will serve as a role model for an entire generation of white and black children and help our state move closer to being truly color-blind.
(And, he will serve as a thumb in the eye of outright racist rednecks in Tennessee, which is something that gives me great joy.)
If a white female shop owner is willing to take risks and face threats for supporting an African-American candidate, we need to show courage as well. Stand up to GOP racism, and show your support for Harold Ford, Jr.
Like Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen says, "Harold is going to make you proud."