Race is still an issue

  • Gavin Hewitt
  • 6 Oct 08, 07:24 PM GMT

Asheville, North Carolina: The first deep shades of autumn have descended on North Carolina.

The crowds at the local high school memorial stadium were still filing in when Barack Obama started speaking.

It looked impressive, but a young man said to me: "Go 10 miles up the road into the mountains and you'll hear a different story.

"Race is still an issue here."

So, later, we drove up I-63 and the Leicester Highway and turned on to a road that ran through the hills.

We were looking for interviews when we saw a man working a plot in the late afternoon sun. He was in his 50s and wore dark overalls.

He drew out his words as he thought about the election.

"I'm a Southerner," he told me, putting tomatoes into a wicker basket.

"My grandfather owned slaves, but I'm thinking of voting for a black man."

I looked at him. The comment seemed to surprise him even as he made it.

He thought about it for a while and added: "It was the Wall Street bail-out that has done it."

He was disgusted that the reckless bankers were being helped - he didn't agree with debt. He was sick of Washington and was prepared to give Mr Obama a chance.

"Something is wrong with America," he said.

I asked him to go on camera but he refused. "I see how TV chops you up," he said, without meaning offence.

But he confirmed that in these rural areas race is still an issue.

For men like himself, electing a black president is still a big step. The young man at the rally had been right.

But this brief meeting confirmed something else: that the economic turmoil is challenging old certainties and prejudices.


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