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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Brenda Tapia, February 2, 2001. Interview K-0476. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A subtle style of racism in North Carolina

Charlotte, and North Carolina as a whole, are subtly racist, Tapia notes. Integration went relatively smoothly, and there was little reaction upon news of Martin Luther King's assassination.

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Oral History Interview with Brenda Tapia, February 2, 2001. Interview K-0476. 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.

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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 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 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 braking the law. But, that's the closet I think there was to any demonstrations around this area.