Wednesday, August 29, 2012

RNC Redux

You may have seen the story out of the Republican National Convention. Two RNC attendees were ejected after throwing nuts at a black CNN camerawoman and saying "this is how we feed the animals."

Atrocious but not unprecedented. The story put me immediately in mind of Belva Davis's memoir, which we published at PoliPointPress. Belva covered the RNC in 1964 at the Cow Palace and was treated to similar indignities. Very similar, in fact. Here's what she told KALW's Holly Kernan:

It was a mean-spirited crowd up in the galleries where we were. And we did all right the first day because they were behaving for the cameras. But then, there was a speech by former President Eisenhower that was like lighting a match, in which he talked ... the words he said could have been interpreted as being racist. And after that, all hell broke loose. Reporters were being, I mean really big-name reporters, were being taken and arrested, really – one of the leading reporters was arrested on that night. So, we watched all this from up high, and finally we heard somebody from down below yell, “What are you N-word people doing up there?” And he screamed it in sort of a chant. And the next thing we knew, there’s a mob of people screaming all kinds of things. Up there, isolated where we were in semi-darkness, we felt threatened. We started down the stairs and garbage started being thrown at us. I didn’t really get nervous until I could feel a bottle whiz by my head. It crashed against the concrete, and my knees started to shake as we were walking down the ramp to get out of the Cow Palace.

Louis said to me, “If you cry, I will break your leg.” Just like that! And I looked at him, I was shocked! Straightened my back, and we both kept eyes straight ahead and got down to the bottom. And then we looked at each other because we saw uniformed officers, but coming from the South, we knew that was no safe passage. And we knew we still had the outside to the parking lot to go. We were both terrified. We were at a political convention, or you know, one of the two organizations pledged to protect the rights of American citizens and feeling that our lives were in danger. But that’s the way it was that year. It was an experience that made me sure that I wanted to go into the news business because they were the only ones who seemed to be able to shine light on these people. And I wanted to do that.

More power to Belva, but it seems like we can do better than this.


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