Well, praise be, and glory hallelujah. North Carolina finally seems to be ready to put the Civil War behind it.
The North Carolina Senate apologized Thursday for the Legislature's role in promoting slavery and Jim Crow laws that denied basic human rights to the state's black citizens.
As a native and life long resident of the "Old North State", I must say that it's about bloody time. I can only hope that the people of North Carolina, the average Joe's and Jane's, are in accord with the state legislature. Based on the attitude of the folk I grew up around, however, I have my doubts. Not to mention the still present racism, disrespect and denigration.
I grew up in one of the more backward areas of the state. My family moved there (in the early 1970‘s), from the next county over, when I was eight years old. My first day in my new school, I was stunned to find that I could barely understand my classmates’ speech. Turned out they were speaking a remnant of Elizabethan English, as their families had lived in the tucks and folds of the eastern escarpment of the Appalachian Mountains, and, until very recently, had little or no contact with the outside world.
There was another aspect of my new classroom that took a couple of days to sink in. All of my classmates were white. I (innocently) asked my teacher why this was so, and she replied “We don’t have any niggers here.” I’ll never forget hearing that. At my previous school, two of my best friends were black, and I honestly don’t remember anyone using the ‘n’ word [and by the way, I apologize for using it in the above quote - but it is a direct quote].
Being a child, it didn’t take long for me to adapt to the language of my new classmates, and, before long, had developed new friendships. One of my new friends was a budding artist and liked to draw pictures of warships. They were always flying the Confederate ‘Stars and Bars’.
I had, for various reasons, the option of attending three of the four high schools in the county. However, two of those were all white (so much so that if a black family tried to send their children to one of them, they soon had a cross burning in their front yard), and that played a large role in my choice to attend the third, integrated, high school.
I was a band geek and book nerd in high school, but to the best of my recollection, ‘race’ relations were, for the most part, pretty good there. I have heard, however, from friends that were unable or unwilling to escape the area, that several years after we graduated, the school became very racially polarized.
I am a descendant of one of the families most responsible for the existence of slavery in the United States, as an ancestor of mine spoke up in the Second Continental Congress - and led southern states to not vote for independence unless wording banning slavery were removed from the Declaration. Therefore, I have always felt a personal shame regarding slavery and ethnic inequality. So these beginning steps by the North Carolina Legislature to right this historical wrong help lessen the burden on my ‘soul’, and hopefully will help to bring all of us together into a more peaceful rational and equal existence.