NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It only took one simple gesture for two neighbors, that had never spoken before, to become lifelong friends.
“I am mowing my grass and I see him walk out his front door with a bucket of paint and a paintbrush,” said Carlos Whittaker.
James Martin wanted to do something uncontroversial to show his support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I’ve tried to wave at him and smile at him. And he would never acknowledge me or anything,” Whittaker said of Martin. “And I started to build up some narratives in my own head about, ‘well, I wonder why this man doesn’t like me.'”
Whittaker admitted to having a bias towards his white neighbor, creating an impression based on his American flags and shy demeanor.
But after witnessing Martin paint one of his two white lawn rabbits black, Whittaker went over to say hello. He recorded the conversation asking Martin why he made this decision.
“Honestly, while he was painting it I started to tear up,” said Whittaker.
Martin quickly opened up in the video, describing that he felt moved by what’s happening and his experience being raised by a black servant in the 1950s.
“My mother hired a black lady to keep the house up, laundry, food, cooking, raise me, all that stuff,” said Martin, “She taught me how to do everything, and I never felt any indifference towards her.”
“All of the walls, all of the preconceived notions, all of the prejudices, all of the things I had built up against somebody I didn’t even know came crumbling down in a second,” explained Whittaker, “I’m so grateful that he took the opportunity to have that conversation deeper with me than maybe I was expecting.”
Over the last 24 hours, Whittaker’s video on social media of the interaction has more than one million views and the two have talked more in the last day than they have in four years of living across the street from one another.
“One thing we can’t do is outlive life. So the time we’re here we have to live with whoever our neighbors are,” said Martin.
Martin’s front yard not only contains two large bunnies, now one white and one black, but also a sign that reads “Every Bunny Cares 4 U.”