When I walked across the floor of the Indiana Convention Center six years ago this past summer, I witnessed one amazing moment.
There, during Indiana Black Expo, the longest-running event of its kind in the United States, a packed house filled with dignitaries and commoners collectively turned their heads to a jumbo screen high above them. It was as if they were all synchronized by radio control.
They were looking at an image on the screen you just don’t see on Meridian Street or any other street in Indiana. It was the face of Nelson Mandela. In a recorded message, the South African civil rights leader wished the Indiana Expo well, but did more than just offer a wave and a smile. He gave a short speech. It wasn’t much, but when the video was over, the crowd stood and cheered a man who couldn’t hear them. It was as if the expo had been blessed with all the grace it could have bestowed upon it. Instantly, it made a moment to remember for those of us who never had a chance to meet Mandela, speak to him or see him in person.
It’s that moment I wish the people in this country who today are fighting the notion that American flags should be lowered at half-staff in Mandela’s memory could have witnessed, too. Believe it or not, there are portions of this country where a presidential order to lower flags in honor of Mandela is not being heeded. Those people in those cities can pick their reasons why. Maybe they don’t like the fact the president has chosen to honor someone from another country. Maybe they just don’t like the president and will oppose anything he does or says. Maybe they just don’t want to recognize Mandela’s contributions to freedom in his country and the world because it portrays white people as inferior moralists.