Stigma against academic achievement in black community
In this excerpt, Irons says that he appealed to African Americans for student council votes by using rap references in his campaign speech, although another student council member was elected without a blatant effort to court African Americans. Irons also points out what he sees as a significant cultural difference between white and black people: that academic accomplishment is not as culturally accepted in the African American community.
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: What does it require to get elected to student government at West Charlotte? Who do you have to appeal to and how?
NI: This is going to sound pretty negative, but I would say most generally you have to appeal to the greater black population. In my speech I incorporated rap songs and really tried to appeal to African-American culture. I guess it worked. Although I wouldn’t say that that’s absolutely necessary. There’s another kid on SEC who went out and plainly said, “This is who I am.” And got excited, but not in the stereotypical African-American way. It was more just eccentric in his own way. And that was just as well received as my speech was. I would say that you have to appeal to the black community here at West Charlotte, but you don’t necessarily have to go about it in a stereotypical black way. West Charlotte is a place that really appreciates people who go out on a limb and do their own thing.
PG: You’ve talked about sort of in classes intellectual exchanges with your fellow black students and white students, what do you think you’ve learned about African American culture here at West Charlotte?
NI: I would say the biggest thing I’ve learned is how hard it is in this country to be black and to be successful. I think that in black culture, especially in children, what is acceptable and what is cool for kids is not studying and reading and doing your homework. Where, in my culture, that is acceptable. It is fine to do your homework and get good grades, but not necessarily in black culture. And I see a real alienation of those who try to be successful and who are successful. I would imagine that that would be the single largest thing that I’ve learned, is that I can’t possibly come to imagine what it is like to be young, black and smart in American society. Because you’re alienated by white people who are racist, and you’re alienated by your own culture sometimes because of ignorance. And I would say that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from black culture here at West Charlotte.