The Perils of Louella:

Chapter 188: Louella Plays the Race Card

by A.C. Cherbonnier
      IT WAS the tenth straight Mayoral Forum and Louella was tired of hearing every candidate say the same thing. Two minutes of fluff, she thought resentfully. And one of these yahoos is going to be Mayor of Baltimore! It may as well be me. At least my degrees are real.
      The moderator cut somebody off, there was a sprinkling of applause, and he intoned, “And now let’s hear from Ms. Pryzbylewski,” mangling her name. “You have two minutes,” he reminded her. “The topic is what you would do about race relations.”
      Swallowing to calm the tension, she said, “I’m white. It’s something I can’t help. My parents are Polish and Irish. They came here after slavery ended, and had nothing to do with it. Our family live next door to a black family and everybody gets along. So there’s no problem with race on my end, and I would hope those of other races wouldn’t hold my race against me, and that in particular African-Americans would not assume I am racist just because of the accident of my being white. I just want to do the job as Mayor. So as Mayor, I would want to treat everybody alike, and stop this business about who’s what color. That’s the only way to get over it, is just to get over it. And that’s all I have to say about it.”
      “Time!” intoned the moderator.
      The audience, barely visible over the stage lights, was totally quiet. There was no applause at all.
      I only said what everybody’s thinking, fretted Louella. And now look! They probably think I’m a racist just for telling it like it is. She felt like crying. Oh well. I didn’t expect to win anyway. They don’t even include my name on the list of candidates when they take those surveys, so I’m not even a blip on the political screen.
      The silence deepened, and then the audience began to sound restive. A man stood up from the floor and called to the moderator, “May I say something please?”
      The moderator, flustered, said, “Go ahead, but make it brief.”
      “I have to say I appreciate what Miss Prizz... [there was audience laughter at last] just said. I don’t know if you can tell up there what my race is, but let me say, I’m getting tired of it being something that seems to matter more to some folks than having a clean and competent government in this city. And that’s all I have to say, too.”
      The applause began and increased like a wave until the moderator had to pound his gavel for the first time. Quiet was restored.
      The next candidate in alphabetical order said, “I’m glad the last candidate said those things. I think I’ll dispense with my prepared remarks and add to that. It doesn’t really matter to me either what race the next Mayor is. And I’m Black. I’d like to think folks would vote for me because I’m the best candidate, not because of my race. I think we have to rise above that kind of thinking and work together for the common good.”
      The candidate’s delivery was superb--even electrifying. The audience cheered, clapped, stamped their feet. In the footlights, Louella could see some people giving a standing ovation.
      I might have done something good after all, thought Louella, flushed with pleasure. Maybe things are going to be okay after all. You don’t suppose I’m dreaming?


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This story was published on September 1, 1999.