Not knowing where I’ll be living in 2 months is unsettling and I’m nearly constantly thinking about it. I have housing phone apps alerting me of new rentals many times a day. **Buzzz** **Buzzz** **Buzzz**
Last night I found the perfect place, or so I thought. I’ve browsed through several dozen properties over the past couple of weeks and I was like “Yes! This is it.” These types of moments tend to happen rarely as I am very picky. A home to me is like…well, the home I chose and how I keep my home is representative of who I am as a person and the state of my psyche.
I was so motivated this morning to see if this was the place for us that I’d planned on making the call first thing for a showing. But I went on Google Maps and took a look around the neighborhood. The street name sounded familiar so I Googled it. Oh, it’s the name of a Confederate War hero? Of course. I am in The South. There is a freaking monument prominently displayed downtown in honor of the Confederacy (more on this political issue at a later time).
Then I virtually “walk” around the neighborhood some more on Google Maps and notice that all the surrounding streets are named after Confederate War heroes and even after the worst of the worst, the Grand Master of the KKK that slaughtered hundreds of African Americans.
What. The. Actual. Fuck.
And then, and keep in mind that by this point it was well past my bedtime so I was super tired, I became enraged and a fury stirred in me and simultaneously stimulated a feeling of self-doubt, shame, and despondency. I’ll pack all those emotions later, but suffice it to say, I became obsessed and I couldn’t sleep.
I had to know why this particular neighborhood, and why the names had never been changed. The neighborhood development happened to coincide with the centennial (100 year anniversary) of the American Civil War. The United Daughters of the Confederacy were promoting the belief that the Civil War had not been about slavery but about states’ rights and wanted to commemorate Confederate soldiers. Who am I to assume to know their intentions but… the names they chose for the streets in the neighborhood reads to be as a big “N*****s not welcome” message.
If you had been an African American person living in my city in the 1960s would you have moved to a neighborhood where all the streets were honoring people who believed your race was inferior (in fact only in value of 3/5ths of a person)? Honoring people who had shed blood and toiled for years to keep your people enslaved? Would that be a welcoming place? I think not. And would you want to live there now, even? Or is the past just in the past?
Nearing the turn of the 20th century my city Wilmington (then the largest city in North Carolina) had a majority-black population (55% of the population). Blacks made up about 30% of city’s councils, boards, policemen, and clerks. They owned the majority of local businesses. Very progressive for the time. Progressive for now, even.
Then in 1899 white supremacists from all over the State of North Carolina decided that all this black power was not okay and they decided to do something about it. You know what they did? They staged a coup d’état (the only successful one on record in all of U.S. history) and drove the blacks out of power, and a huge majority out of town. In the process they murdered between 60 and 300 black citizens (of course, being that history is written by the “winners” I’m not sure we’ll even know the exact number).
How fucking terrifying. Read an account of one of the survivors:
“Nine Negroes massacred outright; a score wounded and hunted like partridges on the mountain; one man, brave enough to fight against such odds would be hailed as a hero anywhere else, was given the privilege of running the gauntlet up a broad street, where he sank ankle deep in the sand, while crowds of men lined the sidewalks and riddled him with a pint of bullets as he ran bleeding past their doors; another Negro shot twenty times in the back as he scrambled empty handed over a fence; thousands of women and children fleeing in terror from their humble homes in the darkness of the night…crouched in terror from the vengeance of those who, in the name of civilization, and with the benediction of the ministers of the Prince of Peace, inaugurated the reformation of the city of Wilmington the day after the election by driving out one set of white office holders and filling their places with another set of white office holders — the one being Republican and the other Democrat. All this happened, not in Turkey, nor in Russia, nor in Spain, not in the gardens of Nero, nor in the dungeons of Torquemada, but within three hundred miles of the White House, in the best State in the South, within a year of the twentieth century, while the nation was on its knees thanking God for having enabled it to break the Spanish yoke from the neck of Cuba. This is our civilization. This is Cuba’s kindergarten of ethics and good government. This is Protestant religion in the United States, that is planning a wholesale missionary crusade against Catholic Cuba. This is the golden rule as interpreted by the white pulpit of Wilmington.” – Rev. Charles S. Morris, 1899
I have lived in dozens of cities across the U.S. and I have to say this is the most racially segregated city I’ve ever lived in. There is the “white” part of town, and the “black” part of town. As I walked into the library to write this post I saw voting signs and one said “keep neighborhood schools.”
And I thought, Neighborhood schools? what a horrible fucking idea. Don’t get me wrong, I do love neighborhood schools. I love that my son’s elementary school houses kids that live within only 2 miles of our home, so the kids and our families are truly our neighbors. But we also live in, really, the only racially and economically diverse area of town. The middle schools are *not* neighborhood schools, they are purposefully zoned, in effect forcing kids of different races to intermingle and those who are in disadvantageous situations having a chance. That’s probably a good thing.
This means that my daughter currently goes to a middle school that is about 65% black and only about 15% white. This makes me feel uncomfortable and that discomfort, admittedly, has made me feel like a racist piece of shit. But as she’s been there for a year now and is happy there I’m now okay with it. I had thought because of racial tensions in this city there might be some issues with black kids resenting her or bullying her. Other than being called an “Oreo” she hasn’t had any issues and doesn’t seemed fazed.
Now that I know there is an election going on right now for my county Board of Education I don’t feel so helpless because I can vote. On my way out of the Confederate neighborhood I saw a couple dozen high school students and teachers holding up signs to end gun violence. It made me weep as I had felt entirely hopeless about calling a place home full of racists bigots who clung to their God and guns. There was something about these kids that acted as healing balm to my heart.
It isn’t such a bad bad world…I’m standin’ in the dark, Waitin up for the light
Featured image credit: https://www.salisburypost.com/2017/08/21/colin-campbell-a-shift-on-confederate-monuments/