West Charlotte's many ways of maintaining racial balance
Love considers "all these quotas and ratios" that West Charlotte High School used to create racial balance in prominent positions at the school, which was nearly evenly divided between black and white students. To Love, the quotas were a way of compensating for mistakes made by the United States, an adolescent country prone to blunders. To Love, the difficulty of integration and its aftermath were part of the country's development.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with John Love, February 17, 1999. Interview K-0172. 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: I heard an interesting story about a production of The King and I.
JL: Yeah. When did that happen? Did that happen before I was there or right after I left? That may have happened right before I got there. Maybe.
PG: With The King and I where they had to cast two kings.
JL: Right. I remember that because that stuff would happen, too. Like there would be all these quotas and ratios about how many black people, how many black cheerleaders there were and how many white cheerleaders there were. How many black letter girls, how many white letter girls. And the thing is, is that when we were at West Charlotte, the ratio of black to white was forty-nine/fifty-one, depending on who came to school that day. People often times look at those kind of racial quotas things as being beneficial to black people, but at West Charlotte they were actually more beneficial to white people because there were many times when there might have only been one white girl on the cheer leading squad or things like that. But, yeah, there were these things. The homecoming situation would come up, but we didn’t have a white homecoming queen and a black homecoming queen.
PG: What did you do?
JL: I mean it was just the homecoming queen. But I remember hearing about all of that in, say, the generation before we got there, and those kinds of things. Because I remember those kinds of things happened at other junior high schools when I was in junior high.
PG: What did you think about those quotas when you were there?
JL: It was so funny, because those quotas were a reality, then I accepted them as a reality. So after accepting them as a reality, I was acutely aware of how unfortunate they were because of how they had to be. But, and not necessarily because, because I never looked at those quotas as being about creating a space for people who weren’t as qualified. I always saw those quotas as being about creating a space for people who were qualified, but weren’t going to have a space because of racism. So that was—no one has ever asked me that question. Yeah, but that’s it. I mean that’s, when I think back and I look at that, that was my perspective on those. Because being a high achiever myself, and people would ask me things about quotas, if I got something and a quota thing was in place, or if I got something and a quota thing wasn’t in place, my reality was never that I got it because of a quota. Or, if there wasn’t a quota I wouldn’t have, that the quota made up for something in my performance that was lacking. I always thought the quota made up for something in the performance of the society that we lived in that was lacking.
PG: Looking back, do you think it was helpful to have those at that time?
JL: I think it was a transition, and I think at the time it was the best thing that the culture knew how to do, meaning America’s culture. So, sure.
PG: When you say it was the best thing the culture knew how to do—.
JL: Knew how to do. It was kind of like what I say about America. America to me is like a spoiled rotten adolescent that’s got entirely too much money, especially compared to the rest of the world. If you look at the rest of the world and you say that some cultures are adult cultures and then some cultures are elders, America’s like really, really young. And so in terms of dealing with difference and trying to deal with difference in somewhat of an effective manner, and trying to make people happy or not piss people off or, any of that stuff, given the history of the culture it was the best thing it could come up with at the time. My thing is, well, what would have happened if not? Because, really, the intent with all of that was one that was about people trying to tolerate other people and live with other people and all that kind of thing. It's kind of like looking at a child and saying, “Were the terrible two’s really necessary?” Well, yes they were because they’re just a part of the process.