Race and Life in Chapel Hill: Top 10? I Don’t Think So!

Posted: August 27, 2012 in From Student to Teacher
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Having lived in the South for more than ten years, I am just chock full of disgust at so many things.  Namely: racism.  Yes, that’s right, I said it.  Why do most people seem to freeze when the word comes up?  Have we become so terrified by the enormity of frivolous lawsuit mania in this country that we can’t call it as we see it?

Here in the “dirty South” as the rappers call it, there is some kind of polite vellum when it comes to anything remotely unpleasant that crosses over peoples’ faces.  It’s quite funny.  Perhaps you have to have certain genetic markers to have the ability to assume that mask at will, because I’ve never been able to do it.

In fact, I’m not interested in doing it.  For example, we were sitting in a small group discussion during a faculty mandatory “equity” meeting.  If you are not an educator, you may not know what this entails.  Equity meetings were established in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools to bridge the gap between the elite White/Asian populace and the African-American/Hispanic low achievers.  So, according to the facilitators, we had to have these meetings, and be “transparent” in discussions of race so we could improve the education and effectively “bridge the gap.”  Sounds charming doesn’t it?

Well, my partner and I fell for this polite veneer in Chapel Hill.  It’s the veneer of progressiveness, the allure of diversity and culture that appeared to thrive in this town.  Surrounded by professors and doctors and lawyers, all of different races excited us.  We thought we had finally found the place to raise our young children. Well, we were wrong.  Very wrong indeed.

In the small break out session, we had to discuss the research by some guy who said that to truly reach the African American males in our classes, we had to go visit them in the “hood”, ask them how they thought the class should be managed, let them teach class sometimes.  I sat there thinking to myself: did someone actually make money selling this garbage and calling it “research?”

Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to hear what my colleagues were going to say in the break out session.  I won’t bore or shock you with the inane comments made by the staff.  Okay, I’ll write about one.  One esteemed, Nationally Board Certified Teacher, said we should respect Black students who call each other “nigger” and we should try to join in with them so that we establish a closer connection with them.  In fact, this genius felt that it was a perfectly acceptable term to use to refer to Black people because when they say it to each other, it’s an acceptable cultural endearment.  To which the group nodded politely and mumbled their “amens” under their breath.  Again, my vellum face did not manifest.

Being the new kid on the block I had to say something because “administration” was watching and my  teacher evaluation depended on it (not on my ability to teach in the classroom).  So I said that the research was nonsense and offensive and that as the wife of a proud and dignified Black man, there was no way I would treat any of my Black students in that way.  I also told them about my child in first grade and how during recess, the white boys had my daughter (half Black) be the monkey in their game.  How cute?  From a parent’s perspective, can you imagine the rage? One administrator said, “Your daughter should not have to be treated that way.”  But that’s how all of Chapel Hill operates.  A colleague at the school where I taught said his daughter’s Calculus teacher told her father she was struggling in the course because she was African-American. What year is this again?

Why is the public education formula framed for only White children?  I’ll tell you why.  Because the framers of our constitution, the “founding fathers” of this great nation had not even conceived of an education system that embraced a variety of races and nationalities and ethnicities.  It was simply not part of the system.  They could not conceive of a day when our country would be overrun by hundreds of different groups of people, all trying to make a dream their reality.

There.  A bit of comic relief to lighten the post.

Money Magazine very recently posted their Top 100 Best Cities to Live In in the Country list.  Chapel Hill made number ten.  I was outraged.  OUTRAGED.

Why?  Because it’s all a facade.  It’s a joke.  It’s a scam and a lie.  This is ONLY the tenth best city to live in if:

You’re a professor, doctor, lawyer, student.

You’re annual income exceeds $150,000 annually (and you have a spouse who matches that).

You’re White or Asian.

You drive a Toyota, Honda, and the somewhat acceptable Subaru.

If you meet at least two of the above, Chapel Hill is truly a mecca.  There is a proliferation of organic and non-organic restaurants.  The cousin, Carrboro, is filled with cafes and the traffic congestion occurs right around 9:15 a.m. each day so that the diehard Mac users can get their best seat at the cafe, where they can chat with their friends and turn to their Macs periodically, all the while maintaining the hippie/grunge/detached intelligence that is so uniquely their own.  The question that bubbles from my brain down to my mouth is always the same:  Who the hell works around here?  How on earth do these people pay their bills?

So these four category Chapel Hill lovers drive their shiny minivans and SUVs around town, ignoring the mobile home parks right next to their $400,000 homes, they teach their kids to think within their bubble of elitism, and although the town pays the highest taxes in the state of North Carolina, it is only funneled to the “haves.”  A few blocks away, the poor Black people, the Burmese immigrants, the Hispanics working two or three jobs, struggle and their community centers are shut down.

Money Magazine said Chapel Hill has no crime.  Well, that’s only because they have an image to uphold and the newspaper keeps the news light and cheery, filled with bake sales and farmers market news, the latest wildflowers growing in the parks, etc.  It’s just happy land here in Chapel Hill, USA.

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