South Carolina removes the confederate flag from its Capitol grounds. The nation applauds. Less than a week later, Oklahoma residents greet President Obama with the same flag when he comes to the state. Welcome to the New South.
My debut novel, NAIL IT: Breaking into the Black Elite, examines the world of exclusive social clubs and black fraternities and sororities. Set in a fictional city in North Carolina, it also probes the notion of the “New South.”
Known for its love of college basketball and Krispy Kreme donuts, North Carolina boasts an economy buoyed by Charlotte’s financial industry, Raleigh’s education and technology sectors, and tourism on the coast. With a lower cost of living than the city centers of the Northeast and Midwest, North Carolina, like some of the other states in the South, has seen an increase in its black population for more than a decade.
However, does the “New South” really exist? While North Carolina has the honor of having the oldest HBCU in the South, Shaw University, it also carries the shame of the Wilmington Race Riots of 1898 and a eugenics program that did not end until 1977. The region has been the site of some of the ugliest displays of humanity in our nation’s history. Has all that changed?
Forbes reports that the South has 13 of the top 15 cities where African-Americans are doing the best economically. Two—Raleigh (#2) and Charlotte (#6)—are in North Carolina. Progress. Yet, the Justice Department, NAACP, and League of Women Voters are currently suing the state over some of the strictest voting changes in the country ushered in by the Republican controlled-state government. They argue the laws are intended to suppress the minority vote. Tradition.
Blacks living in the South try to make peace with its history while looking forward to the economic advantages that life in the region holds over other parts of the country. But, then the rebel flag is displayed—in a backyard or on a license plate—and serves as a simple and hurtful reminder of the South’s heritage. Indeed, it is a New South–with daily reminders of the old.
This post was written by Shonette Charles, author of NAIL IT: Breaking into the Black Elite and the blog—Pearls, Poise & Protocol. The book is available in paperback or ebook at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and other retailers. Follow Shonette @shonettecharles on Twitter or Facebook.