Community must restore itself
Here, Enloe shares her belief that the kind of attitude that dominated West Charlotte before integration is gone, and it is the responsibility of parents and teachers to restore it by teaching their children and students discipline. Parents also must teach their children racial tolerance. Enloe remembers a little girl at a supermarket whose mother had evidently taught her that black people were dirty. Despite this abdication of responsibility by some parents, West Charlotte still attracts students.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Alma Enloe, May 18, 1998. Interview K-0167. 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
PG: Well, what would you say if you were to think about it, just to kind of finish up, your hopes for the future of West Charlotte and the future of schools. What would you say that you would hope for the future?
AE: They just need to get it together. It takes not only the students, but it takes people with backbones like your parents to initiate and encourage kids. I’m sitting here talking about what we did. This is what I would have done if I had a child. To teach him what we did, and he could carry that on to somebody else, but if all the parents could only do that and have that closeness with kids. I know a lot of them work. They don’t have the time. Our parents, a lot of them didn’t work. Most of them were housewives. The husband worked, the mother stayed at home. You had that connecting thing. Going to PTA meetings and doing stuff like that. I say today the kids now, it seems like they’re out of school more than they’re in school. When we had teachers’ work day coming up, we were in school when they had those teachers’ work days. The parents came to the school to see how you were doing, and you were there. “There’s your mamma. There’s your daddy.” It’s not like that. I guess it’s so big now it’s just impossible to have it that way. It starts at home. You can’t expect the teacher to raise your child. You teach your child at home and pound it in your child, he’ll carry it on with him. That’s the way we were raised. We’ve never been in trouble or anything. I just don’t know. Starting at home, because when you’re young you don’t know. You might have a black friend or a white friend or something like that, but so many people got so much prejudice in them. They teach it to their children. One thing happened to me in the grocery store. It was this little white girl. Pretty. Had beautiful blue eyes. Her mother was in front of me. Now this was a tiny little girl that wouldn’t know about color unless somebody had to teach it to her. So she looked at me, and she smiled, and I smiled back at her. I said, “You have the most beautiful blue eyes.” Her mother said when she was born that’s the first thing they noticed when she came out and she opened her eyes. She had those big, pretty blue eyes. So the little girl kept saying, “Mommy, mommy.” The mamma was trying to pay for her groceries. She said, “What is it?” She said, “She’s not dirty.”
AE: And you could have bought the mamma with a penny. I said, now how does that child know that? It had to be told to her that people of my color are dirty. I was just standing there. I felt for the mother. She just didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t say anything. And I didn’t say anything. She just said, “Mommy, she’s not dirty.” I know it was embarrassing for her. That’s why you have to watch what you say to your children coming up. Teach them right from wrong. Like they say, if you don’t teach them they’ll embarrass you, and that’s what happened to her. Just starting at home with them, instilling in them that they can be somebody no matter what color they are. And I don’t think you should ever tell a child growing up that he’s bad. Even if he acts up, never tell him because the minute you tell him that’s going to stick with him, and he’s going to always think he’s bad, and he’s going to do bad things. It’s just that way. When we were coming along in school if you did something in the first grade it went all the way to the twelfth grade because that teacher done told that teacher how that student was and it carried on. It starts at home.
PG: I guess you would have known from your older brothers and sisters how that would have worked.
AE: Oh yeah. I know one day I was at Double Oaks school. I’ve always ran my mouth. I’m just outgoing. I don’t meet a stranger, I don’t care what color. It means nothing to me because some of the best friends I have are white. My sister, Floree, came home, “Mamma, you need to talk to Alma Lillie. She just embarrassed us. She was sitting up on her knees in the cafeteria running her mouth all over the table and everything.” So, mama got on me. It didn’t happen no more. Somebody always told on you. You just need to start at home. I think parents today, you can do anything you want to do. With these kids coming up today you need to make the time. Sacrifice the time, and think about your parents sacrificing theirs for you. You do it for your kids, and you’ve got to get involved with them to let them know that you’re interested in what they’re doing and where they’re going. But the parents are not like that today. Some parents today, I’ve seen it, they act like they’re scared of their kids. I say, “Lord have mercy. That wouldn’t have been in my family coming up.” It’s sad. And you wonder when will it stop or when will an end come to it. You’ve got to do that. You’ve got to start at home. You should never expect a teacher to raise your child. You do the raising. You get that support from that teacher. A lot of them think that’s what they want the teacher to do. Really. It starts with that parent.
PG: There’s been the bussing in Charlotte for so many years, and now there’s talk that they may stop doing it with this new court case and all of that. What do you think about that?
AE: What, bussing kids? Well now they’ve got so many integrated neighborhoods. I know it’s hard getting kids up early and bussing them this way. I don’t see anything wrong with it. I can say that because it never happened to me. But in order to get the education that everybody deserves they’ve got to do that.
PG: You think still now they need to do that? You think it’s still important?
AE: Yeah, in a sense, but over on this side of town it’s predominantly black. I wouldn’t say not bus to another school in order for that child to get the proper education. Not that they won’t get it here. Back then they had the neighborhood schools. If you lived in that neighborhood you went to that school. I don’t see anything wrong with the bussing. They bus some of them too far away, then by the time the kids do get there they’re worn out from riding. If by not being segregated they can offer every child everything that child’s supposed to get and not look at color I can see staying in the neighborhood. They’re not going to do that. I don’t think they will. But, like I said, there’s a bunch of white kids out there who want to go to West Charlotte. It just seems funny because you never did see whites on this side of town. You see more of them now than you see blacks. That’s because they want to go to West Charlotte and do everything they can to get there. To me it’s a powerful school. They’ve just got to have a little bit more teachers sticking together and parents sticking together, and parents not expecting the teachers to raise their kids. Do I talk too much?