Huffington Post Reporter Interviews her Grandmother About Politics, Blackness, and Donald Trump

JULIA CRAVEN/THE HUFFINGTON POST Virginia Evans was born and raised in the Jim Crow South. And she is fierce.
Virginia Evans was born and raised in the Jim Crow South. And she is fierce.

My Nana is not one to joke around. Like many black women her age, Virginia Louise Evans is usually quite stern and, at times, blunt to the point of cruelty. At 69, she has earned the right to say whatever she pleases.

But she was cheerful last Thursday evening, when I sat down with her to talk about the election, and about politics and blackness more broadly. We’d been laughing and chatting over pasta salad and Cheerwine for a few hours when she looked at me from across her big wooden kitchen table, which is crowded into her small kitchen. Her large brown eyes ― the eyes she passed on to my mother and me ― dulled a bit as she asked, “You ready?”

“Let’s start with what you think about Donald Trump,” I said.

Nana was born in 1947 in Lexington, North Carolina. She never attended an integrated school and graduated from the segregated Dunbar High, named after black poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, in 1965. Her experiences as a black woman born and raised in the Jim Crow South shaped her political identity. She learned to see the smallest of blessings, saying that life as a black woman in Lexington wasn’t as bad as it was in Birmingham, Alabama.

Nana, like many elders, is a living link to the past. She’s wise and prides herself on knowing what she’s talking about. The first thing she noted about Trump was his lack of political experience and personal honesty.

“He’s talking about Hillary Clinton with the emails, but he never said anything about his taxes. He never said anything about messing with these young girls ― he never brought any of that up,” Nana said, her voice rising. “But he always brought up everything that everybody else had done. But nothing on him. So I don’t think he’s fit to be president. If you gon’ talk about somebody else’s deal, talk about yo’ deal.”

“I hope that he will be able to run the country without being prejudiced about anything. Because he said all through his campaigning about the Mexicans, the blacks ― and he’s racist to me.”

I pivoted to a happier topic: President Barack Obama. I wanted to know how Nana felt when he was elected in 2008.

“I loved him,” she said. She abruptly stood up from the table, returning a few minutes later with the family Bible. The large white book with gold-edged pages includes a list of family names dating back to Columbus Fortune, a former slave born in the mid-1800s. Nana became the keeper of this information in 2012 after the death of my great-grandmother Muss, who raised Nana, my mother and me.

Nana slid her finger down the table of contents and then flipped to Judges 4:4, a verse she has underlined.

She read aloud: “And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Beth–el in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh–naphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, ‘Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?’”

She turned her head to face me. Her tone grew a bit more serious.

“Deborah called Barak to help get the nation up out of the situation that they were in. She called Barak to help get Israel out of their misery,” Nana said.

To her, Barack Obama was a gift from God.

“Did you ever think you’d live to see a black president?” I asked.

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Source: The Huffington Post | Julia Craven