Sports and diversity give West Charlotte its mystique
Here, Irons remembers anticipating going to West Charlotte High School, a school whose "mystique" permeates Charlotte, North Carolina. Irons thinks that pride in West Charlotte starts with the sports teams, but at West Charlotte's heart is its diversity, and Irons has learned a lot about different people's capabilities from four years in the school's classrooms. According to Irons, a diverse experience at West Charlotte happens without students seeking it out.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Ned Irons, March 16, 1999. Interview K-0170. 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: That was just the way that it was. Had you had contact with West Charlotte then through your sister? How old is she?
NI: Yes. She’s four years older than me, so she graduated two years before I came. I came as a sophomore. There’s a sort of mystique that goes about West Charlotte where you hear about it, and younger brothers and sisters can’t wait to go to football games, and wear maroon and gold, and things like that. So, I’ve had a lot of contact with it before I came.
PG: When you say the mystique, can you define that a little bit more, or is it something that can’t really be defined.
NI: It’s kind of undefinable, but I would say that it’s based around being able to tell other people that you go to West Charlotte and have them be like, “Oh, you go to West Charlotte. Really?” And wear your West Charlotte sweat shirts and tee shirts, and just have people know that you go to West Charlotte. I think it’s sort of a pride thing where the student body is proud of West Charlotte, and they’re proud to be here. I haven’t been to another high school in Charlotte that’s had as much school spirit per se as we have.
PG: What are students proud about? What are you proud about about going to West Charlotte?
NI: I would say, in terms of just sheer pride with your peers at other schools a lot of it is based around athletics, about, “Our basketball team does this, and our football team does that.” But on a deeper level in terms of who you are when you leave West Charlotte, I’d say you gain an understanding of how people other than yourself live. I don’t mean to put these schools down, but I’m not sure if I went to a South Meck or a Providence that I would be aware of intelligent minority underprivileged kids who made it, who are the success stories. You see so often, “Oh, this is bad publicity about these minorities, or these underprivileged kids,” on the news or in the paper acting in ways which are less than desirable, but at West Charlotte you get more of a view of the whole spectrum. You do see the kids who aren’t cutting it, but more than that I see the kids who have really picked themselves up by the boot straps, so to speak, and done it for themselves. And it’s more impressive for me because I’m not sure—I mean, my mom has been a huge influence in my education, and she’s always pushed me. And education has always been the focal point of my childhood. For some of these kids who are doing as well or better than I am it hasn’t been. It’s been an independent endeavor to be successful. And I’m shocked by that and just really impressed. It opens you and it makes you aware that simply because someone doesn’t have money, or simply because someone’s not your same color, or they don’t talk like you, or they don’t look like you, they have as much to offer and you shouldn’t count them out before you hear what they have to say.
PG: How do you become aware of these things about other students who go here?
NI: I would say mostly through classroom interaction where you’ll be in a classroom discussion, and someone that you never really thought about will say something really intuitive or exactly what you wanted to say, but you didn’t have the verbal ability to express it. You think, “Wow, I had no idea that this person had the ability for that kind of thought or had the ability to be that responsive.” And, more than that I would say just in interacting and getting to know people. I think there are a lot of stereotypes around, “This is how this class of people is supposed to act, and this is how this class of people is supposed to act.” And I think West Charlotte really defies that. There are county club kids and kids from project at the same basketball game standing next to each other cheering just the same way, and you see them in the hall. You get to know people here instead of stereotypes I’d say. I think it’s a really diverse population, and in order to interact with your peers you have to acknowledge the difference and be aware of them, but also it’s sort of like you have to get over them in order to have a very active social life at all.
PG: Are there specific actions that the school takes to try to promote this? Are there things that are done or is it something that happens?
NI: If there are, and there might be underhanded teacher methods who say, “Oh, this group of students work together,” but as far as I can tell I haven’t seen any blatant acts of we’ll put kids together in any way. I think it’s just the diversity sort of forces it, that you can’t exist in your own little shell of a world. I don’t think the school does anything, but I think it’s forced when you get here. If you do want to speak to people, and you do want to have friends at this school, you can’t stick to your shell, your close knit group of friends. You have to go out beyond that, and in doing that you’re going to come across people that aren’t like you. I think it’s just the normal flow of high school social life that introduces you to that.