ATLANTA -- Recently, I took part in a panel discussion about diversity and its impact in media. Rick Sanchez of CNN moderated. It was held in Atlanta, where my family goes back generations.
We touched on a lot of issues, and we panelists seemed well received by everybody there. At one point I noted with pride that I considered metropolitan Atlanta, made up of nearly 5.5 million people, to be one of the most racially "in tune" places in America. I pointed out that with most Atlantans, the concept of knowing, working with and having deep friendships among the races was one that came more automatically than it does in most other American big cities.
Imagine my horror when The New York Times magazine reported on a small county in rural Georgia where recently an apparently longstanding tradition was continued. The magazine's reporter was there to capture every pathetic and miserable moment of it.
Montgomery County High School students held two private, separate senior proms, one for whites and another for blacks. The article suggested the black prom was open to all, but no whites attended. The white prom, according to the story, had an unspoken "invitation only" reputation. As I looked at the pages and read the story, my heart sank. Then I got mad. Really mad.
I am a non-partisan pollster who keeps my work completely objective, but with a history of being a former Republican Georgia legislator and a past strategist for Republicans such as Newt Gingrich, my nationally syndicated column often focuses on the more conservative side of the aisle.
But sometimes the term "conservative" is misunderstood.
I guess that in 10 years of writing, the one column of mine that created the most friction was one a few years ago. I wrote a piece to set the record straight about a young man named Genarlow Wilson, who happened to be black, and who happened to have been sentenced to 10 years of mandatory jail time under a law I authored as a state legislator many years earlier. The bill's intent was being misinterpreted, and Wilson was being persecuted for actions that went beyond the findings of the jury.
A lot of people felt I wasn't so conservative when I wrote that column. I didn't give a damn. And I'm not concerned about reactions to this one either.
I believe in freedom of speech, privacy, the right to choose one's friends and freedom of association. Truly private matters are none of my business.
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