A white Democratic candidate for the North Carolina state house responded to concerns about diversity in his state by assuring voters that he is part of the black community.
Gary Shipman, an attorney who is running to unseat Republican incumbent state Rep. Holly Grange in North Carolina’s House of Representatives, said there was no need to worry about diversity because he has already worked within the gay and black communities for nearly four decades, the New York Post reported.
“I’m a member of the African-American community,” Shipman said. “I’ve been where you are. I’ve been in your communities.”
Shipman made the remarks at an event in Wilmington on Sunday, where moderators at the “Suit Up Wilmington Outreach” event asked candidates how they would promote diversity if elected, and mobilize the black community to vote for them.
Leslie Cohen, another Democrat also running in the District 20 state house race to unseat Grange, told the crowd moments before Shipman spoke that she would be happy to accept invitations to attend African-American events in the community.
“Invite me to your churches and community groups, to whatever events you have,” Cohen said. “And to the extent that I can use my privilege to raise you up, I will do so.”
But Shipman said he did not need any invitation because black people already consider him to be part of the community.
Shipman tried to clarify his comments with the News & Observer, saying that many members of the black community share his sentiments.
“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 wrote in an email to the News & Observer.
Shipman decided to challenge Grange in February because he thought it was “time for our priorities to shift back towards the things that our state and region have historically stood for and represented.”