"Do you like being white?" asked a Tribune-Review reporter of a young man calling himself "Tim Bodine."
If nothing else, being white gave Bodine an opportunity to lead an Aug. 19 Downtown "march of redemption" for white people's support of slavery in America. Bodine and four other guys calling themselves the Caucasian American Understanding Coalition walked from the County Courthouse to the United Way building, where the Pittsburgh Urban League is housed. A pre-march release on the group's Web site noted the young men's deep commitment: "Many of them will [march] on their lunch break."
The men carried signs reading "I'm Sorry" and handed out brochures. "For over a hundred years, African Americans suffered the horror and indignity of slavery," the brochures said. (It's more like 250 years, but, hey.) "Since then, this dark chapter in America's history has gone largely uncommented upon."
"Today," CAUC's statement continued, "we, as the parties responsible for these decades of suffering, open a channel, admitting - 'our bad.'"
When an overlap was observed between the marchers and the crew that puts together the sometimes-satirical Deek magazine, Bodine admitted he had seen the magazine's "Mediocrity Is a Sin" stickers around town, "but that's not what we're here to talk about today."
This was the first public outing for CAUC, Bodine said; perhaps that's why they had never before been seen at any events led by racial-justice groups like, say, the Urban League. "Nonprofits can be hard to work with," Bodine noted.
CAUC has had previous, "private" events before, Bodine claimed. One brochure photo featured an earnest-looking young white man behind a podium, paired with an even-more-earnest young white man on guitar, captioned: "A simple PowerPoint slideshow can start the healing."
On CAUC's Web site - www.cauc-pittsburgh.org -- the same photo is labeled "a PowerPoint sing-along about the horrors of slavery."
When the veracity of this depiction was questioned, Bodine marveled at the "cynical media." The other four CAUC members wore labels stuck over their mouths that informed onlookers they were "SILENCED BY SHAME."
"Let's get a chant going," said Bodine, speaking into a mic plugged into a boombox. "Two-four-six-eight / a dialogue we want to initiate!"
Michael Loomis came out to see the group because, he said, "It reminded me of when Republicans tried to register voters for Nader last fall."
When the young men got to the United Way Building at One Smithfield, they ran into three African-American women headed to lunch.
"Their brochure, 'Caucasian American Understanding,' looked like a white-power [group]," said Aya Amina Van Zant. "But I guess any time a Caucasian stands up against oppression and admits their race has oppressed people, that's a good thing."
"I'd thought they were against interracial couples or something," said Joelle Jeffries.
"Or against blacks in general," added Sabrina Moore. "They should be careful, because there's a lot of blacks who work in that building."
Added Jeffries, "I was about to go over and give them my input!"