White Democrat: I’m Part of the African American Community

Candidate offered as evidence his attendance at ‘many a fish fry’ in the black community…

White Democrat: I’m Part of the African American Community

Gary Shipman/IMAGE: YouTube

(John Wynne, Liberty Headlines) A Democratic candidate for the North Carolina state House of Representatives raised eyebrows when he called himself “a member of the African American community.”

That’s because attorney Gary Shipman, seeking a legislative seat in the Wilmington area, is white.

The strange comment, said at a candidate forum on Sunday, has caused a small furor.

It came about as an attempt to answer a question about inclusivity and how candidates would “enthuse African Americans” to vote, reported the Raleigh News & Observer.

Leslie Cohen, another Democrat in the race, told the audience she was willing to accept invitations to black community groups.

“Invite me to your churches and community groups, to whatever events you have,” she said. “And to the extent that I can use my privilege to raise you up, I will do so.”

Shipman’s answer was an attempt to contrast himself to Cohen by maintaining that he didn’t need invitations because he was already part of the African American community.

When reached by the News & Observer, Shipman said “other members of the African American community” felt the same way, offering as evidence his attendance at “many a fish fry” in the black community.

Yesterday, the candidate attempted to atone for his remarks.

“I can fully understand and comprehend how if someone who didn’t know me or wasn’t there or was hearing me for the first time may absolutely misunderstand my attempt,” he stated. During a phone call Thursday with the Wilmington Star News, Shipman through tears said he had received messages both from those calling him racist and others calling him an “N-word lover.”

Some prominent African American officials in the area came to Shipman’s defense.

“I understood exactly what he was saying and I don’t think there was anything negative about it,” said New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield.

Deborah Dicks Maxwell, president of the local NAACP, said she was initially “shocked” by the comments but that context was important.

“When you listen to the whole thing, you understand that he was just trying to one up his opponent,” she said. But, “The way he went about it was all wrong.”