Black Experience

Candidate for State House: ‘I’m a Member of the African-American Community’

A Democrat hailing from North Carolina hoping to join the state House claims that he is a part of the African-American community.

“I’m a member of the African-American community,” said Gary Shipman on Sunday. “I’ve been where you are. I’ve been in your communities.”

To be clear, Shipman is Caucasian.

Shipman was responding to comments made by another Democrat hoping to take the seat in the House, Leslie Cohen, who, addressing Blacks in the community, said, “Invite me and I will come.”

Shipman, meanwhile, told the crowd that he does not need an invitation, because he’s already a member.

The House hopeful is a lawyer who lives in a $638,000 home in Wilmington, according to The News & Observer. The city of Wilmington is nearly three-quarters white and roughly 19 percent Black. About a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line, the median household income is $38,800 and the median value of homes owned by their occupants is $236,300.

Shipman delivered the remarks to a crowd at a park over the weekend during an event called “Suit up Wilmington Outreach.” He later followed up with a statement to The News & Observer.

“I’ve eaten at many a fish fry held by my ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters,’ ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles’ in that community; I’ve celebrated birthdays, births, marriages, graduations, Christmas, Thanksgiving, July 4, etc., with many members of the African-American community,” Shipman said in an email to the publication.

“There are people within that community and elsewhere that refer to me (and treat me) like their ‘brother’ or ‘pops’ or ‘uncle’, and I refer to them (and treat them) like my ‘brothers’, ‘sisters’ and children,” he went on.

“Like other members of my family, many members of the African-American community have called me in the middle of the night when someone was sick or to come help them or some other member of their family, and I’ve responded — because they are my family,” he wrote. “Three years ago, when an African-American kid who I had known since he was born had his last parent die, I took him into my house for his final year of high school, helped get him ready for college, and just like I would one of my own, ‘pushed’ him out into the world to make his own way.”

“I don’t see color, I see people; and not because I’m running for the NC House either — I’ve talked the talk and walked the walk for many, many years.”

A video clip of Shipman’s remarks made it to the New Hanover County chapter of the NAACP, which could not vouch for Shipman.

“I have personally not seen said individual in the community when I’ve been at places,” Deborah Dicks Maxwell, chair of the NAACP, said to WECT TV6, a local Wilmington news outlet. “Maybe we’ve just missed each other and maybe now we will see each other.”

Still, she gave Shipman the benefit of the doubt.

“I was surprised when someone sent me the video but upon looking at the article and listening to everything that transpired, he was trying to sound like he was more in tune and in touch with the black community than the previous opponent,” she said.

Shipman, meanwhile, is not backing down from his comments. While reportedly “holding back tears,” he described to WECT TV6 how he has received a lot of backlash from “both sides of this.”

In Rachel Dolezal fashion, Shipman defended himself against his “haters.”

“If people expect me merely because I’m running for office to feel differently than who I am, then don’t vote for me,” he said. “I’m not the right guy to represent you anyway, but I am who I am and I’m not apologetic of who I am because my history shows.”

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