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Ned Irons oral history excerpt

Ned Irons is a white student who attended West Charlotte High School in Charlotte, NC during the late 1990s, many years after the Swann ruling required the school to integrate in the early 1970s, but before busing ended in 2001. West Charlotte is a traditionally African-American school and is one of the oldest schools in the district, so it retains a lot of support from the African-American community in Charlotte. In his interview, which took place his senior year, Ned talks about the experience of attending an integrated school.

Audio File: 

Ned Irons Oral History - Desegregation by ncdigitalhistory


Audio Transcript

Pamela Grundy (interviewer)
Did you have the stereotypes before you came here?
Ned Irons
Oh, yeah. And I think it wouldn't be accurate to say that there are people who are completely open minded and come to West Charlotte and don't have any stereotypes. Everybody's, "Oh, I love everybody, and I don't have any preconceived notions of how you're supposed to act." I think everybody, whether consciously or subconsciously, has preconceived notions of people before they meet them. West Charlotte just changed that for me. And, for me, I grew up in sort of a liberal household, so I don't think I had as many stereotypes as some of the people that I associated with when I came here. To see them now from when they were a sophomore, they have changed completely, and not through any intentional actions but just through speaking and communicating and being friends with people who aren't like them. I mean, it's hard to be friends with somebody and then to carry that stereotype onto somebody else, because you say, "It doesn't apply here, so how can I be sure that it applies to everyone I know?"
Pamela Grundy
How do you see that change?
Ned Irons
Mostly the way I see it is in the way people speak about each other. In sophomore year there's a lot of "they's" and "we's." And, “well, that's how they do it, and that's just how they are, that's how they speak.” And now it's, I think it’s individual more, "Oh, well he is a very bright kid," or "She speaks that way because of this." I think there's a lot more understanding of cultural backgrounds and socioeconomic backgrounds where you don't just put a label on it. I think you more grow to understand why something is the way it is, why behavior comes across the way it does.”
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