Chad: “You know somethin’ Bill?, I like you. The next time you’re in town, you need to come out to the house and set on the porch and have somethin’ cold to drink. Hell, we can get out the shotguns and shoot some of the wild pigs on my property. Yessir, we’ll have us a good time!”
Gunfighter: “Geez Chad, I’d like that, next time I get down here, I’ll give you a buzz”
Chad: “Hell yeah! Man, you’re a good ol’ boy, Bill!”
This isn’t a brief snippet of conversation from a bad television script. This is a brief part of a long conversation that I had with a classmate while I was doing an advanced course at the F*eder*al Law E*nfor*cement Tr*aini*ng Center (in Glynn County, Georgia), in 2006.
So, why I am I writing about it now? Because even then, I knew that this little exchange had a profound meaning as to what this country is on it’s way to becoming. See, unless you are reading this via Google Reader or some other reader, without ever having seen my blog, you already know that my skin is a deep chestnut brown. This is relevant because the person that was talking to me was a white guy… a former Georgia State Trooper, who now works for a Federal agency.
The reason this little exchange was important is that this guy looked me in the face and called me a good ol’ boy. There were centuries of history and race relations locked up in that little conversation. Not because neither of us had friends who weren’t the same skin color or ethnicity. Far from it. Not because our world’s were so terribly different, because Chuck and I have similar backgrounds… we’re veterans, didn’t go to college, senior instructors in our particular field, etc…, but this guy, this self-described redneck, called me a good ol’ boy!
I’ll tell you right now, that I laughed loud and long when he said it. I did… I laughed right in his face. But, not for long. Chuck asked me why that was funny, and I told him that being called a good ol’ boy was something that most black men never expect to hear from anyone… especially a white Georgia Trooper. We talked for a long time, and Chuck’s position became quite clear from the outset: He believed that a good ol’ boy was someone who could be counted on; a kindred spirit, a friend. In his world, being counted as a good ol’ boy, meant something. Most importantly, in his world, being a good ol’ boy had absolutely nothing to do with the color of a person’s skin.
This conversation took place three years ago, before Barack Obama announced his candidacy for the Presidency. My friend Chuck wasn’t trying to make some sort of political statement. He wasn’t trying to befriend me to show how progressive he is. Chuck made an observation about what he saw in me as a friend; a colleague; a person… and classified me in the “Good” column.
So. What’s this mean? What is the big deal? Why is this profound? Well, to you, depending on who you are this might mean nothing. To some, it might mean that America has turned some sort of corner. To some, it might mean that we are becoming our better selves. To me, it means that great social problems are generational in nature. Social concerns, whether they are matters of race/ethnicity, matters of sexuality, or matters of gender.
Nope. We aren’t done with race issues. We aren’t done with gender or sexuality issues, either. Having said that, I still believe in the people that make up this weird, mad, moral/immoral, imperfect place we call America.
One thing that you can say for us is that, dude, we’re never a dull place.