Community watches West Charlotte closely
Members of the wider Charlotte community were watching West Charlotte to gauge its successes and failures, Love remembers, but not because they wanted to measure the efficacy of integration. Charlotteans were more interested in the open school concept by the time Love was in high school. Race remained an issue at West Charlotte, however, as demonstrated by a controversy Love mentions but does not describe in detail.
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 was intrigued when you were talking about having the light shine. Did you feel that people were watching? Did you feel that the school was a place that people outside the school were watching to see how well things worked?
JL: I think, obviously, in the beginning with the whole desegregation thing, definitely that was going on. By the time that I was there, I think people were watching for the things that people, or communities, or organizations become noted for as in, “What is West Charlotte’s football team going to look like this year? How good is their basketball team going to be this year?” And if the year before the academic thing was really high, well, “What is it going to be like this year.” And because the open school and the open school concept was something that was new to Charlotte and not pretty widespread, well, “How is that doing?” But people only care about something when somebody tells them that they should care about it, or if it’s new, or if it’s newsworthy, which is sort of a product of our culture. So I do think that there were people watching, and I think that they were watching for different things because they had different agendas. Some people were watching to say, “See, yeah, this works.” And some people were watching to say, “See, I told you. This doesn’t work.” But I think the people who were consciously watching were watching to prove a point. And that’s whether they were parents, or people within the community of West Charlotte, or people outside the community of West Charlotte, or city officials, or business people. They had an agenda about how they were watching, because they were hoping to gain something from what would be revealed.
PG: Did you ever have a sense that, speaking about people looking for a particular agenda, that there were people elsewhere in the community that were critical of West Charlotte?
JL: In parts of the African American community on the west side, or in parts or Charlotte’s larger community?
PG: I would probably say in parts of the white community in particular, or in the African American?
JL: People that were critical? I think so, yeah. Because I think people often times just don’t understand. For example, there was an incident that happened at school, and a parent, she just kept putting her foot in it every time she did something. What I mean by that is she said these incredibly racist things. What it was really about was about power. It was about the fact that her son was going to this school that wasn’t really being run by people that looked like her, and she had issues with that. The school was being run by people of color, and it had great successes. It had its failures, too. Actually her son was doing great at school. He was doing well at school. He was a friend of mine, very athletic, in all the advanced classes, all that. And this one incident happened, and she kept on and kept on, and it was like, “Oh, so this is about power.” So you kind of get to see what makes people comfortable. And some people aren’t comfortable with change, especially if that change means that it’s affecting the way that they see themselves, or the way that they see how they can affect things, or the way that they see how they’re in the catbird seat. All of that kind of stuff. And I think that for lots of people in the white community that was the case.