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Title: Oral History Interview with Brenda Tapia, February 2, 2001. Interview K-0476. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Tapia, Brenda, interviewee
Interview conducted by Johnson, Jonetta
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 76 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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Languages used in the text: English
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2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-09-30, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Brenda Tapia, February 2, 2001. Interview K-0476. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0476)
Author: Jonetta Johnson
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Brenda Tapia, February 2, 2001. Interview K-0476. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0476)
Author: Brenda Tapia
Description: 79.1 Mb
Description: 30 p.
Note: Interview conducted on February 2, 2001, by Jonetta Johnson; recorded in Davidson, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Unknown.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series K. Southern Communities, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Brenda Tapia, February 2, 2001.
Interview K-0476. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Tapia, Brenda, interviewee

Interview Participants

    BRENDA TAPIA, interviewee
    JONETTA JOHNSON, interviewer


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I'm supposed to interview you about your high school experience on integration and desegregation.
I understand that you were, that you went to a predominantly Black high school.
For the first ten years of my formal education I did, and then for the last two years I was one of the first blacks to integrate North Mecklenburg High School here in North Mecklenburg County, in Huntersville, which it is now.
How was that experience?
That experience was traumatizing and in many ways, I still to this day feel the effects of it. But you … and you probably can't imagine as young as you are. Being able to go to a school where everybody that you saw looked exactly like you, where you were treated like a human being, not as something exotic, or something undesirable, or just totally ignored. Ummm … and especially for it to happen right after my sophomore year in high school because my sophomore year in high school I was very involved in all the extracurricular activities of the

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school. In fact I was president of almost every organization except student government, which you had to be a senior to be president, so I was vice president of the student government. I was a majorette in the band and I belonged to all the other extracurricular activities at the school. Everyone knew me, teachers and students alike.
The tenth grade year was just the best year of my life, and then the following year, at the end of the tenth grade, near the end of my tenth grade year being asked by my teachers to volunteer to transfer because they knew that that fall they were going to close the tenth grade at the all black high school that I went to and they would have no choice, they would have to go. But Juniors and Seniors would have an option of going, so they really pushed a lot of us in the top of the Junior and Senior classes to go on and transfer because they knew at that time that the following year, our senior year, the black school would be closed totally so we wouldn't be able to graduate from there, from the high school that we'd started at. They thought it would be better for us if we went on and adjusted to the school by going our junior year.
So there were actually six people, uh, from Torrence-Lytle that went with me, none of them were from Davidson, so what that meant was that I would ride the bus everyday,

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thirteen miles on an all-black bus, I'd walk into North Meck and because I was, even among the six, one of the only ones who was on a college track everybody else would go one way and I would go another. Because my schedule was college bound it meant my lunch period also had me isolated, and umm, so it was really a very trying experience in many ways. I don't think - at the time it was just confusing, and frightening, it's been with age and other experiences a growing awareness that it was actually a painful experience. Because like I said, I went from everybody knowing my name and being very popular and very involved, to, uh being almost invisible for the most part.
North treated us very unfairly as blacks. Our athletes were able to transfer and immediately start playing football and basketball. I don't know if that meant, if that had anything to do with the fact that North's athletic teams at that time were not doing so well and with the addition of the guys from my school, they suddenly started winning. But we were told that you had to be at the school for a year before you could participate in any extracurricular activities, yet I saw the white students, that I eventually discovered had just transferred to North from other places, they were immediately welcomed to any organizations or anything they wanted to participate in. In

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fact, there was a young man who was going to be president of his student …he was, had been elected president of his student body the spring before and his father moved because of a job and he was made co-president of our student government, but he hadn't been there a year, but that courtesy was not extended to us. In classes, many times I was the only black student. And I remember I had two classes out of six where I wasn't the only black. In my U.S History class there was one other young man who had transferred with me from Torrence-Lytle, and we were in the history class. Unfortunately it was United States history so we had to deal with the humiliation of getting to that one page in our U.S history book that dealt with slavery, not even African American history, but slavery in the United States. Half the page is taken up with this picture of black folks in the cotton fields smiling and picking cotton. And naturally, the teacher turns and is like: "Brenda, Tommy, why don't you tell us about the black experience, or why don't you tell us about slavery."
I had just finished reading Frederick Douglass's autobiography the summer before she asked that question, and so I started relating to her about slavery from what Frederick Douglass shared in his narrative, and I was interrupted by a North Mecklenburg student who happens to

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be a professor here at the college who said: "Oh Brenda, that was Northern abolitionist propaganda, slaves were not treated cruelly at all, in fact slaves were a part of the family. And they were taken care of, and they were loved, and that brutal stuff was just Northern abolitionist propaganda." And the teacher agreed with him, and they would have won if it had not been for another student in the class whose father was a professor here for many years, he's now retired, who got up and challenged both of them, who got up and said: ‘Why are you saying that, you know what she's saying is true, why would you tell her that, why would you say that it is not true?" And the teacher at that point just got up and changed the subject to something else.
I remember, umm, in the other classes, because the other class I had where there were African Americans was my French class and unfortunately I had what I call a liberal for a French teacher. I called her a liberal because she gave you a B for being Black. I started suspected that that was what she was doing but one day we had a test, and the questions were written up on the board, and you know you turned your paper in. Well, all I put on my paper was "French Test" and signed my name, all of that was in English. My paper came back with a B on it. Now how did I

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get a B and I didn't answer any of the questions? Unfortunately at that point I was so young and naive I felt like, at that point: "Oh well I got over without applying myself." So why say anything, but it was really a tremendous disservice because what that meant was that I got credit for French one and two in high school, and went to college and had to enroll in French three, and when I walked into my French classroom, the first thing teacher said was, you know, no more English. And I was totally lost. So as a result of that I ended up being what we call a fifth-year senior, and completed everything for graduation except French in four years and so I had to stay a fifth year just trying to pass French.
In the classes where I was the only Black, I really felt like I was a fly in buttermilk. I would often be the first to raise my hand, the last one to be called on. If I was called on the entire class would stop, everybody would turn and stare at me. Umm, which I'm sure you've probably experienced, as a student even if you do know the material, you know the answer, you can sometimes feel intimidated, especially if you're shy, and I am somewhat shy to offer an answer in class. And so to have everything stop and everybody staring down you throat is even more pressure. Umm, I had teachers who, when I would answer a question,

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would paraphrase it, and, but they would do it in such a way, you were left thinking: "Well, I think that is what I said, I'm sure that's the right answer," but it was the way the answer was paraphrased back, or re-said by the teacher that always left you feeling that you were somehow incompetent, something about your answer wasn't right.
I can also remember passing in A papers and having them come back with C's on them and no correction marks and going up asking the teacher: "Could you explain to me what I have done wrong, there are no marks on here and I have a C." And being told: "Do you want to go to the office," you know, "Are you challenging my grading?" It's like: "No, I come from a house where you're not allowed to bring home anything less than a B, and my mom's is going to want an explanation, so I need to be able to explain to her what it is I got wrong so I can work on getting it better." And the teacher was like: "Look, either go to the office or take your seat." Well I know better than to go to the office because again I come from a household where teachers are like demi-gods and anything they say, even if they're wrong, my mother always sided with the teacher. So there was, I felt no support.
I can remember almost getting expelled because I didn't stand up for the school fight song, which was Dixie. You could sit down at my school that

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first year when they played the national anthem, uhh, and nobody would say anything, but if you didn't stand up for Dixie, that was grounds for … expulsion.
Also when I was at North, the school mascot was the Confederate soldier and flag. And the students, while we were doing what they called a rebel yell, we were the Rebels, the North High Rebels. And it wasn't until my sister came through which was about five years after I was there that the students had become a little more militant, and they tore, we had a life, bigger than life-size Confederate soldier and the flag on the wall in our gymnasium. Well five and half years after I was at North the students tore that off the wall and built a bonfire with it out in the parking lot. Which started a period of police being present at the school in full uniform, umm, for quite a while. Umm, I think the thing that was, I also remember, at North they like to give seniors an opportunity to practice marching, and so anytime we had assemblies or programs in the gym, the sophomores, and the freshmen would go in, I mean not the freshman, we only had tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades. Sophomores and juniors would go in, and we were to sit in the bleachers, leaving the bleachers closest to the floor for the seniors. And then the seniors

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after everybody else was in, they'd play the school alma mater and everybody else would march in to that.
Well, I noticed the first year, when there were only six black students in the senior class, if those six black students - one or all of them - would happen to come up to get in line behind a white person, the person would run. So there was, you could sit and watch them marching into the gym, and you knew when the black students were coming because there would be this gap, or they would come and there would be a big gap behind them. But it was like a lot of the students didn't even want to be near them. But again, like I said, football players, athletes were treated like demi-gods, you would have thought they had been there since forever. You would see people socializing with them, laughing with them, but not other blacks.
Same thing would happen when you'd go in the cafeteria, uh, if you put your tray down at a table, it was suddenly like you had a sign: "I'm oozing with the AIDS virus, come near me you'll die of AIDS," because you go to sit down and people at the table just jump up and run. And in adolescence, that can be very, very dis-settling because one of the things that mark the adolescence period of our life is sensitivity. An adolescence can get a tiny pimple on their face and to them it looks like Mt. Everest;

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someone can walk by you and not speak, not because they're mad at you or they don't like you, but because their mind is somewhere else, and as an adolescence you will have a tendency to interpret it as: "Oh, what's wrong with me, why don't they like me, what did I do wrong?" when none of those things are going on.
So to have this type of treatment … and for me it was hard because my mother went to great extents to shield us from whites that were not liberal - no, I don't want to say liberal. Whites who would not treat you like a child of God, whites who believed that everybody was equal regardless of race, color, or creed. So, I was there for about three months, because of what my mother had taught me and how she had shielded me from certain types of whites, and then watching the athletes be accepted. It took me three months to realize that people were not running from me and treating me the way they were because I was ugly, but because I was black. Beause I remember the first day I walked into my chemistry class, this girl had gotten to class before me and put her books down and ran to the bathroom. She came back from the bathroom and saw me now sitting behind her, this girl stopped dead in her tracks in the door, looked at me, and just let out this blood curdling scream. You would have thought that I was Freddie

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from the Nightmare movies or something, Friday the 13th. And the teacher did not reprimand her or anything, I mean he went and like calmed her down, and he came over, picked up her books, and like took them over to a desk on the other side of the room away from me.
Of all the things that happened, the one that really hurt me the most was a really trite one. After that year of waiting to participate in extra-curricular activities, umm, I went out for letter girl, and it just so happened, my girlfriend's brother was on the football team and there was a white letter girl that really had a crush on him. She tried to make friends with his sister, my girlfriend, we told her that we were going out for letter girl, she said: "Well let me teach you our routines." You know, so … and she explained to us that the way they handle the selection was that you would come on like a Monday when they designated, and the letter girls would work all week teaching you their routines, and then on Friday, everybody would come, you know, try out.
Well this chick had taught us all the routines a whole week before the tryouts, before we went to start learning them. So on the first day that we were there the letter girls were working with us and stuff, and my girlfriend and I faked not knowing them for a while, then we got tired of

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faking, so we just started doing them. They were like, Oh wow, look, oh they already know! So they then sat down, and for the rest of the week, they would come and laugh and talk and spent time with each other while we taught the recruits the routine. So naturally, because we were teaching everybody else, we assumed: "hey, we done made it, you know." And so that Friday, umm, just before I was getting ready to leave my house to go to the tryouts, another girlfriend of mine came by, and she wanted to go to the movies afterwards. So I told her, look, I've got go to these tryouts, you know, and then we'll go to the movies. So she went with me, and after everybody had tried out, one of the letter girls came over to my girlfriend that was going to the movies with me and said, Carol Ann, why don't you try out? Carol Ann was like: "Well, you know, I don't even know your routines, I wasn't thinking about letter girl, so I didn't come. I don't know any routines." She said: "Well let me show you a step." So she showed her a step and then she had her to try out.
Well, that Monday, you know, me and Sylvia, we couldn't wait to get to school, we knew we had made it. We almost didn't even go look at the names on the list because we were sure our names were on there. But we decided, you know, just so we could lord it over the people who were

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standing there looking and being disappointed to go and look, and we didn't make it, but my girlfriend Carol Ann did. And it wasn't until the first football game when I'm sitting out in the stands looking up at the letter girls, I realized why she made it and Sylvia and I didn't. My girlfriend Sylvia is like three shades darker than me. We had to look for Carol Ann. "Oh yeah, there she is." But if the two of us had been out there, you would have not had to go through any moving of the neck, head, body, we would've stood out. And it was very much like some of the things you saw in integration of the media, the first anchor people, very light skinned. The first black Miss America, they always start with the ones you have to like: "Is she black? Well, maybe, only some of us can tell, you know."
So your first high school, they were closing it down, and that's why they had to move all of the students out?
Umm, it wasn't so much that they needed to close it down, or they were going to close it down. That's how Charlotte Mecklenburg decided to integrate schools, they decided to integrate at that point. And as a process of their integration plan, they closed black schools. And it

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was really interesting because a lot of the black schools, because of racism, they were newer than the white schools because for a long time we didn't have any schools. Because for a long time, we didn't have any schools, so a lot of the white schools they using were much older, and far more, in much worse physical condition, they would have been the more likely choices to close. But instead they closed our schools and bused us to them, because naturally they wouldn't want to come to us. Just like here in Davidson, Ada Jenkins [the black elementary school] was built long after Davidson Elementary. But when they decided … because the same year they closed the tenth grade at the high school, they also closed the second grade. I thought they had done this all over the county, but I found out a few years ago, that, that only happened here in Mecklenburg County. Their way of beginning integration was to close grades, close those two grades, that didn't happen, you know in Charlotte or Huntersville.
And did you ever get a chance to participate in any other clubs or activities in the other high school?
Band and glee club my senior year. Umm, they would not - well, by my senior year, I no longer had the academic

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average, but they didn't accept my membership in the National Honor Society I had made in the tenth grade. But again, I saw other students transferring in, they were white, that were automatically accepted into the honor society but we were told we had to wait a year. And naturally, after a year we weren't, we wouldn't have the grade point average.
And so what was the main political thing going on at the time?
The thing, the political thing that was going on was very interesting because it has now come full circle. I realize that because of Brown vs. the Board of Education, the decision to desegregate schools, they had a choice. They really had a choice between the desegregating the schools or desegregating the community, and they decided to work with the schools as opposed to the community. Now we are back to this community-based school, which is going to take us, bring that issue back to the front again. Politically, umm, otherwise, if you're talking about demonstrations and reactions, there were none. The demonstrations came, with umm, right after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision when, I think it was 1957, that

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was in 1954. In 1957, they decided to integrate the first white schools, because I went in 1965, that was when I entered into this. But in 1957, Dorothy Counts, whose daughter graduated from here a couple of years ago, Nicole Scoggins, because Dorothy married a Scoggins, so, but umm, they decided to let her be the one student that was going to integrate one of the high schools. And umm, I think she lasted four days, because she experienced more of what you see in the tapes of the civil rights movement. People name- calling and throwing spitballs and stuff, there weren't any dogs.
Charlotte was, North Carolina in general, was a very subtle racist state. When I say subtle, they would much rather do something subtle, then to be overt with their racism. And if your eyes are not open, if you are not really paying attention you won't realize what's going on. So even, I was very surprised to learn, because I wasn't here, I was already in college - when King died, there was no reaction here. Other cities, you know, there was anger, there was protests. The only thing that seemed to be going on in Davidson, and it's interesting that I was here maybe a week or so after it happened, was the barber shop here in Davidson, that got some nationally publicity in terms of students protesting. That was typical North Carolina, as

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backwards racism. Because according to the man who owned the barber shop, they made it look as though it was his decision, as a black man, not to cut black hair in a white barber shop. When, he didn't make the law, they did, all he was doing was knowing if didn't enforce the law, he'd lose his customers, therefore he'd lose business. It was nothing that he really had control over. Sure, he could make the decision, since it was his business, to let blacks in, but he knew what that was going to mean because the law was there, he'd been breaking the law. But, that's the closet I think there was to any demonstrations around this area. [For a more detailed account of this event from the barber's perspective, see Ralph W. Johnson, David Played a Harp: An Autobiography, Blackwell Ink, Inc., 2000]
Were you happy with your choice? Well did you really make the choice - the teachers gave you an option.
The teachers gave me an option, and the way I looked at it, I had looked forward all my life, because all my aunts and uncles graduated from that high school, of when I would be a senior at Torrence-Lytle. And so I was very disappointed and very hurt after that first year. But there was nowhere else I could go at that point. So

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anywhere else was going to be a new school, even a black school, and so I finished North. And I can remember again, one of the saddest times was graduation night, and the guy that was in my history class and I we were waiting outside of the auditorium to march in and we were standing there talking to each other. And people we all excited, a lot of them had their bathing suits and things under their graduation gowns. They had been looking forward to graduation night and all the parties and things just as we had. For them it was a happy occasion and for us it was like: "Thank you Jesus this shit is over and we can get out of here." There was none of the excitement that we had looked forward to as ninth graders and tenth graders in terms of thinking about your senior year. We were just ready to get the heck out of Dodge and were glad to get out of there. As a result of my experience at North, I came away from there, my attitude towards whites, and I graduated in 1967, height of the civil rights movement, was like: "Give me a gun and I'll kill as many white people as I can before they kill me." I mean I really hated white people, and because of the way they treated me. And my father at that time, of all places wanted me to go to an all-white, all-girls' school, U.N.C.-G[reensboro] was Greensboro College, and it was all white, all female. And

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it was like: "Look man, you want me to go to college, you best let me go where I want to go." And so I ended up thinking that: "I'm getting as far away from that type of treatment as I could," and went to Howard in Washington and discovered that Black people treat each other the same way, but based on the shade of black. So, I went from North, were I was treated like crap because I was Black, to Howard, where I was treated like crap by teachers and some students because I was the wrong shade of black. I wasn't light, bright, pretty in white, sitting on my hair. So, by the end of first semester, freshman year, I hated black folk.
So I'm like walking around: "I hate Black folks, I hate White people, ain't got time for foreigners because I grew up in Davidson and there weren't no foreigners," and just became very isolated. And came back home that summer and took a job here at the college, and met a White woman that went out of her way to be friends with me. And I ignored he for as long as I could, and after I decided she was too dumb to give up, I decided: "Well let me test this bitch and see if she for real." And I did, and she passed every test, and she made me stop and realize that I had met, if I really was honest, some really good White people and some really good Black people. Had met some really

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asinine Black folk and some really asinine White folks. It had nothing to do with skin color, you know, asses come in all colors. So it's not about judging somebody, as King would say, by their skin color, but by the content of their character.
And that was a turning point in how I dealt with human beings. I didn't stop seeing color, cause I think that that's an oxymoron when people say that, but I did stop judging people by their color, and started being open. If you treat me like a child of God, I don't care what race, sex, you know, lifestyle, or whatever you are, I'll accept you.
How did your mom and dad take it when you first went, were they happy or…?
Actually, I realize in retrospect, because I didn't understand it at the time, because I didn't really start looking at my parents as human beings until I was about twenty-five. I mean when I say human beings, they were always my parents, but parents have a way of being demi-gods, and you don't really watch them, observe them … you don't really judge them the way you may other human beings. They were frightened. I didn't realize that at the

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time, because you know, you don't think your parents are scared of anything, and then as you get older and get to know them, and realize they're human too, and yeah, they really are scared. I realized they were scared. I also realized, I had to accept that they couldn't help me. Because I can remember coming home and sharing with my mom some of the things that I was experiencing as they were happening. And what she would say was: "Look, I didn't send you to school to be happy, I sent you to school to get an education. You can deal with that if you want to, but your focus needs to be on getting an education. If somebody doesn't treat you right, or they don't seem to like you, that's not important. That's not what you're there for." And that was not how she should've have responded, but I realize now in retrospect, she was doing the best she could.
Like she said, she didn't have Oprah back then, so she didn't know what to say. And I'm like: "Thank God for Oprah now, but I sure wish Oprah had been thirty years sooner than she was." And that's pretty much been the story for me. I mean it was like it started with school, but I found myself, after graduating from Howard, and it probably had to do with the field I went in to, my undergraduate degree was in psychology, and for the first ten years after

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college I was blessed to work in master-level positions with an undergraduate degree in psychology with only a bachelor's. You don't find a lot of Black people in the field of psychology, so I was always a fly in buttermilk, I was always the only Black. And so I began to realize that not just my parents, but a lot of Blacks, because they had not had the opportunities and the exposure that I had, I not figured out how to deal with White people, how to relate with them, how to live with them, how to work with them. I found myself repeatedly going to older Blacks, or Blacks that I thought knew more than I did, trying to get some keys as to how do I deal with the situation - "How do I handle this?" - and I've never been able to.
The most recent being coming back here, because I've been back here since 1985, a little over, almost over, yeah, a little over fifteen years, and as a minister, trying to get support, help from - I belong to a Black Presbyterian ministerial association, which for a long time I was the only woman. I always find myself being the only Black or the only woman wherever I go. I don't know why I don't get to go to majority places but, at any rate, I got mad at them in trying to get help. And it took me about five or six years to realize that they weren't not helping me because they didn't wan to, or they didn't care, they

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didn't know either. In fact, they were more afraid of Whites than I was. They had not had enough contact and interaction with them to realize: "Well they're really no different. Everybody gets up in the morning and puts one leg in their pants and then they put the other one in. And, we are all the same and there's no reason for us to fear each other." And I experience that fear on both sides of the racial divide. I see the fear in Whites, in terms of things like, saying things like: "Well I don't know if I would feel, be welcome if I went to a Black church." "Well of course you'd be welcome, you'd be a lot more welcome than I've been walking into all-White churches." And then Blacks who will hide their fear behind: "Aww naww man, you know I work with them all day, you know, I don't want to be hanging out with them after work." Which is really just an excuse of fear, it's like: "I don't think I'll know what to say, I don't think I'll know how to act." "Well it doesn't matter, they don't think like that, we shouldn't either."
What in general do you think desegregation accomplished?
You know, I know that people who are older thought that that was the answer, that that was one way we might

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get a fair shot at experiencing the American Dream and getting our piece of the pie. If you want my honest opinion, I think that integration was one of the worst things that could've been done to us. I think it would've been more loving, more compassionate, if they just all, injected us all with advanced AIDS, and let us die, because I see more negative repercussions for us than I feel positive strides. First of all, the playing field has never been level. When the Civil Rights Movement changed the laws, but it did nothing, and laws aren't supposed to, but nothing was done to change attitudes and hearts, so we're really not that much better off than when we were before the Civil Rights Movement. A few Blacks were able to advance, but even those few that were able to get through the door and advance, there was a glass ceiling for them. The majority, the masses of our people, nothing's changed for them. It's just like the Depression, I used to hear my grandparents talking about not knowing when the Depression was because they were so poor already: "The Depression, what was that?" You know, it was just another day for them, but for people who had something it was a bad time. And, for what the masses of Black people have gained through segregation, umm, it just, I don't think it was worth it. I see our students being totally out of touch now with their

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own history and culture, I see the self-hatred that they've developed and don't even realize. It bothers me now that I hear so many Black students who consider being intelligent and smart White, not thinking about what that implies: "If that's White, then what is Black?" Because they're making a statement about what it means to be Black, if when you're using appropriate English, if when you're using standard English, if you're really … striving academically, for peers to consider that you're acting White. No, you're acting like an intelligent human being. But things like that just bother me. I think we've really lost more than we've gained.
And you mentioned you had a sister who also went to North Meck?
I have two sisters, one is five-and-a-half years younger than me, and one is eleven. The one five-and-a-half went to North, in fact she started integrating schools, she was in the second grade the year I was going to the eleventh. So she has pretty much been in all White schools all of her life. Totally out of touch with her culture and her heritage, and never had the opportunity. I see a lot of the problems she's having now as having now as an adult as

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a reflection of that because she has no self-esteem. In fact, she has a physical ailment now that in medical circles is considered a victim's disease, people who feel victimized. And not only did she go to school with predominantly White schools and colleges, but then she went into a very rich White environment to teach school, and could never understand why suggestions she made were never accepted, I mean she went through this.
And, like I see some Black students here, things happen to them and they take it personally. Because if you don't have someone correcting your viewpoint and giving you the real perspective of what's going on, it's very easy to think that: "It's me," when: "No it's not you." It's not always you; many times it's the system or environment that you're in. So I think that I can definitely see where desegregation really affected her. She didn't get to experience ten years of being - feeling loved, supported, being cared about, being touched, being seen. She spent most of her life invisible, and I see her in many ways going overboard, to quote: "Be seen." I don't have that need as greatly as she has it. My younger sister didn't even get to finish school here because of what was going on. The middle school here in Huntersville, Alexander, before you go to North, the problems that they were having

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there between the races were so bad, and this is like - right now, it's very calming to have police. In fact schools have their own security system and their officers often wear uniforms. When I was coming along, it was not the case. So it was very unusual to have police at your school every day. And so by the time she was ready to go to Alexander, police were almost a permanent picture there.
I used to call, well not really until I came back here to start Love of Learning, I realized, Alexander was what I call a gatekeeper school. Until about the fourth year of Love of Learning, I didn't think Alexander offered anything in terms of math, other than basic, basic, advanced basic, or general basic - basic, and advanced basic math, because that's all I saw on Black kids report cards. It wasn't until I was - the chaplain was complaining about the difficulty his daughter was having with geometry, and I said: "I thought your daughter was in middle school?" And he said: "She is." I said. "You mean they have Geometry at Alexander?" He said: "Yeah, they've always had Geometry at Alexander." I said: "Oh, I thought they just had basic, and advanced basic math and pre-basic math." Because that was all I was seeing on Black kids report cards, and then I realized that's what they were being offered. And when you follow that type of math schedule in junior high school,

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there's no way you're going to be ready for college by the twelfth grade.
So rather than saying to you what my guidance counselor at North, said to me when I walked in to ask him for a catalog to Howard, he said: "Howard University, I never heard of it. But besides, you people don't need to go to college anyway. Now I got a friend down at Howard and Johnson's in Charlotte, I can get you a job in housekeeping. You folks don't need to waste your time going to college." So rather than having to be ignorant enough to say that, you can subtly do that by controlling the track the child is in and what courses they take. Which is what they do in Alexander, besides the verbal harassment, which if you were to take a drive now around Davidson and Cornelius, you would see a lot of Black men my age group and below, who are just standing on the corner. They're just alcoholics going nowhere. I can't completely blame their situation on Alexander, but that's sure where it started. Many of those men never finished high school. They didn't have sense enough to realize the game that was being run on them, and they embraced being put out of school. If our schools had been left open, it's quite likely that instead of those men standing on the corner, they'd have businesses on the corner.

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It's important to me that we try to supplement what [de]segregation has done, and that's why the emphasis of the program in one ear, is one Black History and culture. And our mission statement makes it clear: I seek to help students realize who they are and whose they are, enabling them and empowering them to become successful and productive world citizens. If you don't know who you are and where you're going, and where you come from, it's very difficult for you to know how to get where you're going to go anywhere. It's very interesting to me that now I graduated in 1967, not much has changed in Charlotte Mecklenburg in those years. The racism is even more blatant now. I have students every year, coming in at the beginning of the year - I work with secondary students, grades nine through twelve. And I get stories about how they walk into class on the first day and their teacher will say stuff like: "Yes, may I help you?" And the student will look at their card and go: "Advanced Chemistry, 06 Preyer, umm, no thank-you," and the teacher will say: "Let me see your class card." And then the student will notice at the end of the class, other students coming in are not treated that way, student looks around: "Oh, I'm the only Black person here, so evidently they thought I was in the wrong place because it was an Advanced Chemistry class." Or students

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raising their hands: "Yes what do you want, you're asking another question?" Another child who is not of that race: "Yes Mary, Tommy, do you have another question?" You know, that's blatant, so it's just a shame it hasn't changed.