Shipman defends comments about being a member of the African-American community

Shipman defends comments about being a member of the African-American community
Updated: Apr. 12, 2018 at 10:54 PM EDT
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Gary Shipman, a white candidate for the N.C. State House, said Sunday at a campaign event he's a member of the African-American community. 

"People don't have to invite me to the African-American community. I'm a member of the African-American community," Shipman said. "I've been where you are." 

Shipman, one of three Democratic candidates running in the primary for House District 20, says he was responding to one of his opponents' comments when he made his remarks, that were videotaped and uploaded to YouTube, about diversity.

Leslie Cohen, one of the other Democratic candidates, said she would go to the African-American community if she got invited. 

Critics took to social media condemning Shipman's comments, even sending the video to the chairman of the New Hanover County NAACP.

"I was surprised when someone sent me the video but upon looking at the article and listening to everything that transpired, he was trying to sound like he was more in tune and in touch with the black community than the previous opponent," says Deborah Dicks Maxwell, NAACP chair. 

Maxwell says she believes Shipman was only trying to one-up his opponent by saying he's well-connected to the African-American community, but she does question his visibility. 

"I have personally not seen said individual in the community when I've been at places," she says. "Maybe we've just missed each other and maybe now we will see each other." 

Shipman says he's taken punches from blacks and whites since the video was uploaded. The calls and comments have run the gamut. 

"I had a gentleman call me today who identified himself as an African-American businessman in this community and he said to me that he was glad there was somebody who wanted to talk about building bridges instead of tearing them down," Shipman said, holding back tears. "I've certainly had the haters, the haters have called and used the N-word. I've had both sides of this come out. It hurts because I know who I am because I never ever intended to rip off this scab for anybody." 

As for what impact this could have on the primary, Shipman says he'll have to depend on the votes of those who know him. 

"If people expect me merely because I'm running for office to feel differently than who I am, then don't vote for me," he said. "I'm not the right guy to represent you anyway, but I am who I am and I'm not apologetic of who I am because my history shows." 

The winner of the Democratic primary will face incumbent Republican Holly Grange in the November general election. 

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