Byline: DEIRDRE CONNER
Andrew M. Manis is a historian, professor and ordained minister.
An author and associate professor at Macon State College, where he teaches American and Southern religious history, Manis recently made a splash when he wrote an op-ed for the Macon Telegraph around the time of President Barack Obama's inauguration.
"When are WE going to get over it?" was written as a reaction to news reports about assassination threats against Obama, and was reprinted around the nation. The we he referred to? That would be white people.
The Times-Union spoke with Manis, who gives a talk here Thursday, to find out how a man who grew up using the n-word has become an advocate for racial equality.
You're a historian of the civil rights movement. What are your personal memories of that era?
I was 9 years old during the 1963 demonstrations in Birmingham, but of course I remember the tension. The first time it bothered me was when I heard my Little League baseball coach say something rather celebratory after the assassination of [Martin Luther King Jr.]. My mother was really the only white person I can remember, as I was growing up, that I ever heard say something remotely positive about King. When I went to college, I was asked by a political science professor to read some of the writings of Dr. King. I discovered what I had suspected all along, which was that King and his side were on the right side of history and the people I was mostly raised with were on the wrong side of history.
As a white man, do you ever encounter skepticism when writing or speaking about racism and civil rights?
Oh yes. One day there were people in my classroom before I got to class saying, "You know, Manis doesn't like white people." I get an e-mail every now and then that calls me a race traitor. The nicer ones say that I am, as we used to say in Alabama, "eat up" with white guilt. In 2004, I published a book about race relations here in Macon. One of my students, who happened to be black, said she appreciated me writing the book and volunteered to …