African American cultural identity of West Charlotte
Irons sees West Charlotte as an African American institution, a characteristic he appreciates. He remembers his shock at a fried chicken day and rap music on the intercom, but appreciates the effort to introduce a degree of cultural comfort as part of an effort to encourage academic achievement. This effort to make students comfortable is not extended only to black students: Irons remembers that West Charlotte's principal reached out to him. This excerpt also reveals a glimpse of how West Charlotte might be perceived in other parts of the city. "A lot of schools call us ghetto," Irons says.
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: Do you think of West Charlotte as being an African American institution? It’s obviously an historically black school.
NI: I do. If you walk around you don’t see University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. You see, NCA&T. You don’t see Duke, you see Johnson C. Smith. And not that West Charlotte is simply relegated to sending kids to African-American schools, and not that they won’t do everything in their power to send you to any school that you want to go to. But in general, in terms of I think administration and, I guess not so much teachers, but administration and student body there seems to be more of an African American overtone to the way the school functions. Which I don’t mind a bit and actually I enjoy because it’s not the way that I live my life, and it’s opened me up to a different side of our country that is just as vital to the success of our country as mine is, but that doesn’t always get the recognition that it should.
PG: Was it surprising at first to see the office or the ( )?
NI: Oh, oh, it was definitely surprising when I came to school, and we had a fried chicken day, and we had rap music playing on the intercom in the morning. But sort of a nice surprise and a nice awakening to what it is that West Charlotte is. Yeah, a lot of schools call us ghetto and things like that, but I’d say it’s more than that. It’s a appreciation of African American culture almost integrated with a diversity of kids that creates an environment for people to be successful, and where you don’t worry about whether you’re white or you’re black or you’re Asian, where you just feel free to be who you are and it’s not a big deal if you’re white or you’re black. I’ve never ever seen somebody be treated differently by anybody, by any staff here at West Charlotte because they’re white or black. And I’m not sure I could say that if I went to a different high school.
PG: Can you think of any particular—I’m interested in sort of stories and incidences. Can you think of any particular story, encounter you had or experience that you’ve had that might illustrate that?
NI: Well, let me think. I remember when Principal Cline first got here, I saw him. He’s a very intimidating man when you first meet him, especially if you’re a student of his. And he was laughing and joking around with a few black students, and I sort of felt uncomfortable just sort of getting into the fray because it was, I don’t want to say a black thing, but it appeared like a racial understanding between two African Americans, and I didn’t want to feel like I was stepping on anybody’s toes. And he looked up at me and he was like, “What are you doing?” I was just like, “Uh, uh, uh.” He was like, “Come over here.” And he started laughing and joking with me just the same. And it was sort of like an affirmation of what it is to be accepting of everybody, even when you’re at your most relaxed, and when you’re not worried about the social context of what you’re going to say or do, you still like everybody and you still want to help everybody.