My move to NORTH CAROLINA… 1978
It’s January of 2007 as I write this. The news spotlight has been on North Carolina recently and what it reveals seems to be deep-seeded prejudice among our college students. In the case of Duke University three white lacrosse team players are accused of raping a black girl. Then at Guilford College three football players face assault and ethnic intimidation charges after an attack on three Palestinian students.
Both of these cases are pending and I make no judgments here. The reason I cite them is because this is just what I expected to find when we moved here in 1978. I was very apprehensive about moving to the South. I had many preconceived ideas and seeing a small restaurant in the town of Robbins with a sign hanging over the front door that said, “We Reserve the Right to Serve Who We Want” only reinforced what I thought. I imagined KKK members lurking in the woods and bodies hanging from the trees.
I took a secretarial job in the Emergency Dept. of our local hospital and one of the first persons I met was a nurses aide by the name of Virginia. She is a black lady about 7 years older than I. Both of our husbands were named Richard and, since neither one was well, it gave us the basis for a friendship that has lasted for more than 26 years. Virginia retired two years before I did and we tended to drift apart...although our bond was never broken. I was very pleased to get a call from her daughter recently telling me that the family was planning a big surprise party for Virginia. It was for her 80th birthday and I was invited.
I didn’t know what to expect since she is on dialysis twice a week now; but, she looked wonderful. She was absolutely glowing and the love and warmth that permeated the room was palpable. I did a quick head count and figured that there must have been at least 125 people present. Only 13 of us were white...mainly her “family” from the ER, but there wasn‘t an inkling of discomfort among us.
What really touched my heart was the way that we all melded as one. A sit-down dinner was served, there were many impromptu speeches and a slide show was presented. Then a man and woman stood up and proceeded to entertain us with a medley of Gospel songs. It wasn’t long before we all joined in and the room was rocking with our voices.
When the party was drawing to a close we all stood. Black and white hands joined to form an unbroken circle and I couldn’t help but bask in the good feelings of love and unity that were in that room.
As I drove home I marveled at the difference between how I felt in 1978 and how I feel now. Prejudice will never be eliminated here (or anywhere else, for that matter) but a gathering such as the one I had just left was proof enough for me that, at least, we were trying.