Tisdale’s Topics:R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Reprint March 3, 2005

The greatest error black elected officials make is that they show little or no respect for those who chose them as their leaders in the first place. When they see you when they’re with their white friends, or pretended friends, they act as if they don’t know you. The singular exception to this general rule was the late Dr. Aaron E. Henry, a wealthy pharmacist from Clarksdale, MS who was, until his untimely death, also president of the Mississippi State NAACP.

Anyway, wherever Aaron Henry saw you he was “hail fellow well met!” I remember visiting Dr. Henry in his room at the Sun and Sand motel with my friend Dr. L.C. Dorsey when the phone rang. Dr. Henry was fixing his food so I answered the phone. When I handed Dr. Henry the phone, he said gustily, “Hello Roz, baby!” It was Mrs. Rosalynn Carter, wife of then President of the United States Jimmy Carter! Dr. Henry explained to Mrs. Carter that Dr. Dorsey and I were friends of his.

Most of us would have behaved as if we were not there or were the maid or some other servant. Dr. Henry was always the same! Most black elected officials have two faces. One, “down home” smile when ain’t nobody here but us chickens. The other, a tight lipped, toothy smile reserved for times when he’s with white friends. On such occasions our pristine “leader” has both hands tightly laced behind his back in order to be able to quickly signal acquaintances not to approach! There is nothing as duplicitous as black leaders in white company!