Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Lawrence Ridgle, June 9, 1999. Interview K-0144. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Negative impact of urban renewal and opposition to welfare

Ridgle shifts from a discussion of the negative impact of urban renewal on the African American community to an argument that "the worst thing that happened to Durham was welfare." Ridgle describes what he sees as the overwhelming negative impact of the social welfare system, as it had evolved by the 1990s, on Durham and argues that too many African Americans were dependent upon it. The passage ends with Ridgle's segue into a discussion of drug culture and its negative consequences.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Lawrence Ridgle, June 9, 1999. Interview K-0144. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

No, the worst thing that happened to Durham was welfare. And nobody ain't going to tell me this thing wasn't thought out and aimed at you because when you help a person you want to know how long am I going to have to help him. I ain't no genius and considered by some to be dumb. But if I'm going to help you I've got to know how long do I have to do this. How long am I willing to do this? When they came out giving out those checks for the unwed mothers and food stamps they just stole a lot of money. Why? To help them or take care of them? Well why do you want to take care of somebody that's perfectly able and can take care of himself? I came up with the idea that about three or four generations that we've had, we've had welfare. We've had—we've got a generation of people who have never done no more than wait for the welfare check. That's why they don't want to work now. They never seen their mother and father go to work. That's why I love this community here. All the grown people in this community when I was a kid had a job. I don't care if it was dumping garbage. Every evening at four thirty, five o'clock you'd just sit on your porch and see Mrs. So and So. "There comes Mrs. So and So from work. There's Mrs. So and So coming from work." Everybody was coming from work. So children were inspired that work is a part of life. But now we've got three or four generations of kids—their mother—they've never even seen their mother and daddy go to work. And I don't think that just happened. I don't believe that just happened. Why would the government throw—give away so much money? And after getting so many complaints about the misuse of the money. But they still continue. Now they've got a bunch of fools out here that don't know anything about work, won't go to school. And here comes the Spanish to the rescue. They don't need us no more. In another ten years they won't need blacks to do the type jobs that were set aside for [unclear] people. And blacks happen to be a majority in that category. Now here come the Spanish. They're taking all the jobs, all the grass cutting jobs, construction type jobs, service jobs, restaurant and stuff. You can see that they're multiplying in it every day. And they're doing it with a smile and they're doing a good job. They come to work on time. They work hard. And, really, [unclear]
ALICIA ROUVEROL:
What was that last part?
LAWRENCE RIDGLE:
The establishment wants their work done. And the Spanish people, really, I truly believe within the next five or ten years, the majority of blacks under thirty years old are going to be in the penitentiary.
ALICIA ROUVEROL:
Because—?
LAWRENCE RIDGLE:
A lot of things. It ain't the drugs per se because the drugs—it had its uses, too. First they made us, through welfare, I think they made us unemployable.
ALICIA ROUVEROL:
I think you talked about dependency before.
LAWRENCE RIDGLE:
Sure. Well why should I work? I've had girls tell me this. "I ain't going to work no where and flip no hamburgers for four dollars an hour, five dollars an hour. The welfare give me four hundred dollars a month. And I don't have to get up every morning or listen to somebody tell me to do this and do that." I've heard girls say, "I'd rather have me another baby and get me another four hundred dollars." Because they had that form, but if they hadn't have given it to them, they'd have got up off their butt and got it some kind of way, you know. And then to compound it they come up with a new drug called crack.