Myrtle Beach homeowner, appliance technician share eye-opening discussion about racism

Updated: Jun. 2, 2020 at 11:44 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – An inspiring discussion about racism between a white woman and black man in Myrtle Beach has captured the attention of people across the Grand Strand.

Caroline Brock and Ernest Skelton share a special relationship now, and it all started with Skelton coming over to fix one of her appliances.

“People judge me before I even come in the door, so that’s the reason why I ask, ‘Is it OK for me to come in?’” said Skelton.

The question caught Brock completely off guard.

“She said, ‘Why wouldn’t I let you in? You’re coming to check my appliance.’ Then, I explained to her that’s what we go through because people look at us different,” Skelton explained.

Over the weekend, Skelton went back over to Brock’s home for second appliance repair appointment, and that’s when Brock asked him a question that was a little more personal.

“I just decided to ask him straight out, ‘How are you doing right now given the current climate?’” Brock said.

At first, Skelton assumed she meant the coronavirus, but Brock wanted to know what the day-to-day life of a black man is like. Skelton opened up and told her some stories about how racism has affected him professionally.

“One customer had three technicians out, and all three were white. That’s the reason why I was questioned because if all three of them couldn’t do it, what makes you think an African American can do it? I just had to prove myself, and I got it running, but they called and said they don’t want me back. That’s just what I go through," Skelton said.

He added that he gets pulled over in his work vehicle at least half a dozen times a year.

“I would never think that he, I would think that he was pulled over as much as I am. Maybe every few years. I don’t even remember the last time I was pulled over,” Brock said.

It has even gotten to the point that Skelton has stopped taking appointments after 5 p.m.

“Sometimes I have customers that need me after 5 o’clock and I have to reschedule for another day because of what I’ve experienced. I’m afraid that I’ll wind up getting pulled over, and this time, I won’t make it home," Skelton said.

“Now he’s having to pull back on his hours because of it? That was so overwhelmingly enlightening and surprising," Brock added.

Brock asked Ernest if she could post their interaction on Facebook, and he thought it would be a great idea. A few days later, they had more than 100,000 shares.

“In the comments, people, a lot of white people say, ‘I’d love to have these conversations, but I’m scared. I’m scared I’m going to say the wrong things. I’m scared I’m going to approach it wrong. I’m scared I’m going to offend someone,’" Brock explained.

But Skelton said he wasn’t offended because he had built up trust with Brock and knew she was sincere when she asked about it.

“If we want to change the world and make our country stronger, we have to be willing to step into the uncomfortableness and pain in this country," Brock said.

“When are the lines going to draw so I can say it and tell them back in the day it was a white man’s world, but now we united," Skelton said.

The two hope that their interaction can inspire others to open up the conversation.

For now, Skelton said he will keep asking his customers if he can come in, but at least he knows at Brock’s home, he’s always welcome.

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