I went to the RCTA dinner last weekend in the hopes of meeting the President, but I didn't get the chance. My husband stayed at home with our daughters--partly because he hates having to put on a tuxedo and partly because he votes on the other side of America's political divide and expected the evening to be a one-sided liberal affair (in spite of the fact that Fox News was on the program and in the audience). Ironically, I did meet a political celebrity from the other side of the aisle-- and have an unexpectedly delighting chat with him.
Just as my friends and I were getting ready to leave, we encountered GOP Chairman Michael Steele walking the concourse (probably getting ready to leave himself). He wasn't surrounded by handlers-- or anyone-- for that matter. I'd driven down to event with my friend Rich Schmidt (President of the advertising agency, Fat-Cat Creative) and his neighbor, retired broadcaster Herb Brubaker who is something of fixture in Washington DC local news. Like the good journalist he is, Herb had quizzed me thoroughly on the drive to the Washington Convention Center: who was I, what did I do, what did I write about, etc. So I'd shared with this elderly white man quite a bit about Don't Bring Home A White Boy and what my research had uncovered. So when he saw Chairman Steele, he grabbed me by the hand and said, "Let me introduce you."
Introduce he did. After my name, the next thing out of his mouth was: "She's writing a book about the most amazing thing. Tell him, Karyn."
So I did... and Steele's eyes lit up.
"Girl," he said offering me his last business card. "I need that book. Please send me a copy when it comes out."
He proceeded to ask about my research and to share some of his own experiences with my topic. History, he agreed, was the most salient of reasons why black women date out far less than black men and for a while we discussed black matriarchy.
"I was raised by black women... all women," he told me. "And they do their best to inculcate a resistance to interracial dating to their sons. I remember when I brought home the Italian girl I dated in college." He shook his head, laughing. "That did NOT play. And I see it now with my wife and our two sons. I think it's interesting that black women accept multiculturalism on every other front-- but not on the romantic one." He shook my hand. "You're onto something there-- and I wish you every success."
I had to wish him the same. He struck me as a good guy with an impossible job-- widening the tent of a party that has entrenched itself in some very close-minded social policies. For every effort he makes to drag the Rush Limbaugh contingent into the 21st century, he himself gets mired deeper into those muddy waters of the past. While my hubby and I have some interesting debates at home, even he agrees that the social conservatives hold on his party are their greatest challenge. "I really don't care how other people live their lives," Kevin says all the time. "I'm a fiscal conservative, not a social one."
When I told my husband about my nice conversation with Chairman Steele, he appreciated the irony-- but was thrilled, too. Not enough to wish he'd donned a tuxedo and accompanied me, but thrilled all the same. "Don't forget to send him a book when it comes out," he said, watching where I tucked the business card away, so when I forget where I put it, he'll remember.
Of course, I will send Mr. Steele a copy when Don't Bring Home A White Boy comes out in January. No, I'll send him a few copies. Sounds like the women in his life might need it!